A 19-year-old Ohio gamer sentenced to 15 months of prison because he involved recruiting someone to make phony emergency calls that resulted in a man being shot to death during a “swatting.”
Casey Viner,19-year-old gamer, of North College Hill, Ohio, also is restricted from gaming activity for two years while he is on supervised freedom after serving his prison term, U.S. District Judge Eric Melgren stated in publishing the sentence.
However, the defendant was ordered to pay $2,500 in restitution.
The incident begins from a 2017 incident when Viner, upset over a lost bet from a “Call of Duty, WWII” match, had an associate Tyler R. Barriss, 26, call in a phony shooting and kidnapping against 20-year-old Shane Gaskill. Nevertheless, Gaskill purposely gave Barriss an old address and taunted him to “try something,” so police in Wichita, Kan., shot and killed Andrew Finch, 28, when he answered his door.
Gaskill, who had previously given his old Wichita address to Viner, was charged as a co-conspirator after consciously giving Barriss the same previous address and taunting him to “try something.”
Barriss, a then-25-year-old Los Angeles man with an online reputation for “swatting,” called the police from Los Angeles on Dec. 28, 2017, to falsely report a shooting and kidnapping at that Wichita address. Finch was shot by police when he opened the door to see what was happening outside.
Viner had just turned 18 about two weeks before the deadly swatting incident, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Debra Barnett argued probation would give him a better grasp of what he has done and would be a first step in helping him to grow up.
“Swatting, and soliciting others to swat someone, are more than foolish,” McAllister stated. “Such actions are reckless, dangerous and, as this case proves, potentially tragic. Swatting is not a game, and it is no way to resolve arguments among gamers. Once again, I call upon gamers to self-police their community to ensure that the practice of swatting is ended once and for all.”
The federal charge against Viner covered old text messages including one where he supposedly wrote to an unknown person, “I was involved in someone’s death.”
Finch’s family is suing the city of Wichita and the officers involved, including the one who fired the deadly shot, who was not charged by the local area attorney.
Gaskill struck a deal with prosecutors to avoid prison time. Barriss was convicted in March to 20 years in prison after pleading guilty to 51 numbers for creating fake emergency calls and warnings around the country.
Viner repeatedly gulped and seemed gloomy as the judge stated his sentencing decision. He looked into the courtroom gallery where his parents were seated. His tearful mother got up and left the courtroom. His father, an Ohio law enforcement officer, put his head into his hands.
Ohio gamer declared guilty in April to criminal charges of conspiracy and restraint of justice in the hope that he would not be sentenced to prison. Viner admitted trying to hide his involvement in the 2017 incident when he recognized the antic had gotten someone killed.
In a brief courtroom statement, Viner told the judge he is “awfully sorry” for what occurred: “I never intended for anything to happen. I think of it every day.”
Barriss then called the Wichita police and reported a hostage situation at 1033 W. McCormick.
Police responded, thinking they were dealing with a man who had killed his own father and was holding family members hostage. Andrew Finch, who lived at that address, did not know why police were at his home when he walked onto the porch. When Finch made a move that startled officers, he was shot and killed.
Another Ohio gamer, Barriss was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison. He has declared guilty to more than 50 felonies nationwide, including federal charges in Kansas of making an interstate hoax that resulted in a death and cyberstalking.
Prosecutors and support lawyers in their defense agreement had suggested a sentence of two years of punishment, with the added condition that Viner is confined for six months to his home except attending school, work or church. They jointly recommended the gaming restriction too.
But Melgren told a prison sentence was needed to show the importance of the offense. It was foreseeable that something bad could happen by calling an armed police force to react to what police thought was an escalating situation of violence, he stated.
“We impose sentences not only for what people intend but what happened,” Melgren added.
The death of 28-year-old Andrew Finch in Wichita, Kansas, attracted national attention to “swatting,” a form of punishment in which someone reports a false emergency to get authorities, especially a SWAT team, to descend on an address.
Police said Viner selected Tyler R. Barriss to “swat” an opponent, 20-year-old Shane Gaskill, in Wichita. But the address they used was old, leading police to Finch, who was not involved in the dispute or gaming.