LIVONIA – A justice dismissed the criminal charge against the Lakeville man arrested in October for a ‘creepy clown’ prank that doubled law enforcement patrols at and around local schools.
Livingston County Chief Public Defender Marcea Clark Tetamore confirmed that the misdemeanor Falsely Reporting an Incident in the Third Degree charge against Christopher Hooper, 43, was dropped Tuesday night by Justice Robert Lemmen after a motion by Assistant Public Defender Kelly Donahue-Burns.
The above image was posted on Christopher Cody Hooper’s Facebook page with the following warning, apparently as a prank:
“Okay…so I pull up to Vitale Park tonight to walk the dogs with my girl and there’s this creeper sitting on the swingset,” posted Christopher Cody Hooper. “There are no other cars in the parking lot at all. So I’m quick to pull out my phone and snap a pic and as soon as I do, dude takes off running. I’m definitely not the type to call the cops (and the substation is right there) but I don’t think I’m gonna go there after dark anymore. Plus, I guess there has been a bunch of these type of sightings going on in all different states. So, for those of you with kids, you might not want them in the park at night or alone for that reason. Pass this on as a warning.”
Law enforcement patrols were doubled at Livonia and Avon schools following this and other social media reports of local clown sightings, and these schools sent advisories to families. The Livingston County Sheriff’s Office investigated and arrested Hooper.
According to NYS penal law, a person is guilty of Falsely Reporting an Incident in the Third Degree when, ‘knowing the information reported, conveyed or circulated to be false or baseless, he or she:
‘1. Initiates or circulates a false report or warning of an alleged occurrence or impending occurrence of a crime, catastrophe or emergency under circumstances in which it is not unlikely that public alarm or inconvenience will result; or
‘2. Reports, by word or action, to an official or quasi-official agency or organization having the function of dealing with emergencies involving danger to life or property, an alleged occurrence or impending occurrence of a catastrophe or emergency which did not in fact occur or does not in fact exist; or
‘3. Gratuitously reports to a law enforcement officer or agency (a) the alleged occurrence of an offense or incident which did not in fact occur; or (b) an allegedly impending occurrence of an offense or incident which in fact is not about to occur; or (c) false information relating to an actual offense or incident or to the alleged implication of some person therein; or
‘4. Reports, by word or action, an alleged occurrence or condition of child abuse or maltreatment or abuse or neglect of a vulnerable person which did not in fact occur or exist to: (a) the statewide central register of child abuse and maltreatment, as defined in title six of article six of the social services law or the vulnerable persons’ central register as defined in article eleven of such law, or (b) any person required to report cases of suspected child abuse or maltreatment pursuant to subdivision one of section four hundred thirteen of the social services law or to report cases of suspected abuse or neglect of a vulnerable person pursuant to section four hundred ninety-one of such law, knowing that the person is required to report such cases, and with the intent that such an alleged occurrence be reported to the statewide central register or vulnerable persons’ central register.’
Sheriff Thomas Dougherty said that he stands by the charge.
“You had kids who didn’t want to go to school because they’re afraid of this killer clown epidemic that was rolling across the nation, not just here in the county,” said Dougherty. “You had schools putting out robocalls, letting the community know about this potential threat to schools. You have additional patrols in schools, kids scared, parents scared, and then you have a public post. If it was just shared with friends, I think you have a better argument that it’s his private freedom of speech. But he shared it publicly and asked people to share it as a warning, causing public alarm. So I absolutely stand by the charge.”
Tetamore disagreed with Dougherty’s statement.
“One thing to remember about the law – it must be clear so that someone knows if they are violating a law,” said Tetamore. “The Sheriff’s comments on your video that because clowns were such a hot topic when Mr. Hooper was arrested, it violated the law then…but maybe wouldn’t violate the law now. Society must know what is legal and illegal and it must not depending on the day or the month or the year. The law cannot change at the whim of a police officer.”
“The law stays the same but the factors that existed then may not now, thus what could have caused public alarm then may not now,” said Dougherty. “This is the reason we assess every investigation on individual factors of the case.”