Hawkins student accused of sending bogus school closure notices charged with criminal impersonation

Jeff Bobo • Apr 24, 2013 at 7:24 AM

ROGERSVILLE — A Cherokee High School student accused of emailing bogus school-closure announcements to three television stations in February has been charged with two counts of criminal impersonation.

Hawkins County Sheriff Ronnie Lawson said the 17-year-old boy stated he just wanted the day off.

The boy allegedly admitted to using an Internet “spoofing” site to impersonate emails from Director of Schools Charlotte Britton and Student Services Supervisor Adrian Smith.

On Feb. 4 at 10:42 p.m., an email was sent to two Tri-Cities television stations and one Knoxville station from what appeared to be Smith’s school email account.

The email stated “Hawkins County Schools will be CLOSED Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2013.”

On Feb. 4 at 10:43 p.m., another email with the same message was sent to those same three stations that appeared to be from Britton.

The two Tri-Cities stations ran the incorrect information on their 11 p.m. newscasts.

The Knoxville station contacted Hawkins County Schools prior to its 11 p.m. and verified that the emails were bogus.

Although the bogus school-closure announcements created some confusion the next morning, and school offices across the county were flooded with calls, school officials said there was no noticeable fluctuation in attendance for Feb. 5.

On Feb. 5, the Hawkins County Sheriff’s Office was informed by Britton that emails had been sent by someone impersonating her and Smith.

By issuing subpoenas to various online services, HCSO Detective David Byington reportedly traced the source of the emails and identified the IP address of the computer allegedly used by the boy.

“On April 23, Detective Byington interviewed the juvenile, at which time he (the juvenile) gave a statement admitting to sending the emails,” Lawson said.

Lawson added that the boy said he sent the phony school-closure notices because he wanted the day off.

The boy will appear in Hawkins County Juvenile Court on the charges next week.

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