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Hawaii man sentenced to 18 months for hoax report of hijacker on Alaska Airlines flight

HONOLULU, Hawaii - A judge handed an 18-month prison sentence to a Hawaii man who admitted he falsely reported a possible airplane hijacking because he was drunk and trying to get even with a roommate who had put fish guts in his truck.

Timothy David Hershman said in federal court Thursday that he blames the call on stupidity, anger and alcoholism.

"I screwed up really big time, your honour," he said. "I'm really sorry for this."

Hershman was drunk when called the FBI last year saying another man was going to hijack an Alaska Airlines flight, said Hershman's public defender, Alexander Silvert. Authorities determined the other man was aboard an Alaska Airlines flight from Kona to Seattle, and after questioning him for nearly two hours deemed the call a hoax.

"He's an alcoholic and he gets stupid when gets drunk," Silvert said, explaining that Hershman, 60, wanted to get back at the roommate. Prosecutors have said Hershman confessed to making the call from a pay phone in Kona because of the fish guts incident.

Hershman's hoax call prompted two Oregon National Guard F-15 fighter jets to escort the flight to Seattle in a mission that took nearly four hours. Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Nammar filed a motion requesting that Hershman pay about $72,000 to reimburse the government for fuel and other expenses.

One of Silvert's arguments against reimbursement was that the expenses were "operational costs" similar to "costs a government would incur in sending out law enforcement officers to deal with a bomb threat, a bank robbery, a gambling den, or any other criminal activity."

U.S. District Judge J. Michael Seabright denied the prosecution request Thursday, saying Hershman, who is now homeless and receives $1,300 a month in Social Security benefits, can't afford to pay any restitution.

Seabright said the hoax call "had potential serious consequences."

In the end, Hershman got the revenge he was seeking against the man, who was detained, Seabright said. "He was essentially in custody because of this phone call," the judge said.

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Follow Jennifer Sinco Kelleher at http://www.twitter.com/JenHapa .

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