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Provo » Louisiana resident John M. McHugh, 47, still maintains he did not phone in a bomb scare that caused the evacuation of seven Wasatch County schools in March 2008.
Regardless, 4th District Judge David N. Mortensen sentenced McHugh on Thursday to serve 180 days in the Wasatch County Jail. He was given credit for 10 days already served.
McHugh was found guilty in June of the second-degree felony. The trial was moved from Heber City to Provo, said Wasatch County Attorney Thomas Low, in order to find an impartial jury.
When released, McHugh will spend 36 months on probation. The judge suspended a prison sentence of between one and 15 years and a $10,000 fine.
However, McHugh was ordered to pay a $1,110 fine. He also faces paying a substantial restitution.
Prosecutors want him to repay costs of law enforcement response from 10 agencies during the evacuation and a seven-hour search of various school buildings. That amount will be determined in the next 90 days.
McHugh didn't deny the bomb threat came from his cell phone.
But he told the judge others had access to his phone on the day of the bomb threat.
"It's out of character for me to make that call," McHugh said before sentencing. "I would never have any part in something like that."
McHugh's former girlfriend, Tammy Baker, had told investigators McHugh told her he made the call as a joke.
Defense attorney Ed Flint told the court his client was on painkillers at the time of the incident and "that's why he made this error in judgment."
Flint also argued that Wasatch County School District officials were responsible for traumatizing the school children by telling them a bomb could be in the schools, rather than simply asking them to evacuate, like a fire drill.
"It seems unprofessional that school officials told them it was a bomb threat," he said. "Any terrorizing of the children was done by the ineptitude of the employees."
But Wasatch Schools Superintendent Terry Shoemaker told the judge school officials had to react quickly, because the bomb threat was not specific and all the district's schools had to be evacuated quickly.
"Little children in tears approached me personally and asked, 'Why would a man do this to us?' "
Heber City Police Sgt. Jason Bradley asked the court for a substantial penalty.
"A message needs to be sent... that this kind of terrorism will not be tolerated."
The judge denied McHugh's request to return to Louisiana to tie up loose ends before starting his jail term.