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The Huntington News

The independent student newspaper of Northeastern University

The Huntington News

The independent student newspaper of Northeastern University

The Huntington News

Former Northeastern lab manager convicted in 2022 bomb hoax on Boston campus

A Boston Police Department officer walks toward the scene of the bomb hoax in Holmes Hall Sept. 13, 2022. Jason Duhaime was convicted June 28 of staging the bomb hoax and lying to federal law enforcement. File photo by Avery Bleichfeld.

Jason Duhaime, the 46-year-old former new technology manager and director of the Immersive Media Lab at Northeastern University, was convicted June 28 of staging a bomb hoax on Northeastern’s Boston campus in September 2022 and lying to federal law enforcement, according to officials.

Duhaime was charged with intentionally conveying false and misleading information related to an explosive device and two counts of making materially false statements to a federal law enforcement agent. He faces sentences of up to five years in prison, up to three years of supervised release and a fine of up to $250,000 for each of the charges, according to a press release by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Massachusetts. 

Duhaime was convicted by a federal grand jury. His trial began June 24, according to court documents. 

“Staging a hoax explosion and lying to the FBI about it isn’t a harmless act. It’s a crime,” said Jodi Cohen, special agent in charge of the FBI, Boston Division, in a statement. “The FBI and our partners take all threats to life seriously because protecting human life is our absolute priority. Anyone who pulls a stunt like this should expect the FBI to investigate and you should consider whether you really want to end up where Jason Duhaime is now awaiting sentencing for three federal felonies.”

At approximately 7 p.m. Sept. 13, 2022, Duhaime staged an explosion in a Holmes Hall lab, claiming to be injured when he opened a Pelican-style case that expelled “sharp” objects. He claimed the case contained an anonymous “violent note” that threatened to “destroy the lab.” Duhaime notified authorities of a second, unopened Pelican case, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. The alleged explosion, which was reported nationally, caused widespread panic on campus and the cancellation of several evening classes in surrounding buildings.

Duhaime claimed he collected the two Pelican cases and more packages from Meserve Hall with a student who worked in the lab, according to an affidavit written by FBI Special Agent Steven Kimball. The student’s shift was scheduled to end at 6:30 p.m., but Duhaime requested them to help him carry packages. The student said it was unusual for Duhaime to accompany them in getting packages, the affidavit reads.

Duhaime claimed that when he opened the first Pelican case, several “very sharp” objects flew out and injured his arms. The bomb technicians found no sharp objects or “suspicious debris” on the floor or elsewhere, according to the affidavit. 

A search of his office Sept. 14, 2022, found an electronic copy of the anonymous letter that was likely printed between 2:50 p.m. and 3:56 p.m. on the day of the hoax, according to a report published by the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

In the note, Duhaime warned of a takeover of artificial intelligence. The opening of the note reads, “To the lab manager of the VR lab and the other lab managers in the MSO!!!! It has come to our attention that this VR lab is trying to change the world!” according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. 

He went on to write: “You are trying to change the fabric of the ideology of a peoplee! [sic] Trying to get us all to live inside a virtual fucked up world!!!! You are not the creator!!!!!!!! You think you are!!! We know you are the anti-christ sent to this world to change everything!!! Will stop you!!!” 

“In the case you got today we could have planted explosives but not this time!!!” the end of the letter said. “Take notice!!! You have two months to take operations down or else!!!!! WE ARE WATCHING YOU,” the letter continued.

Duhaime did not have a permanent residence in Massachusetts despite his status as a full-time Northeastern employee and was sleeping in the Immersive Media Lab and in his office when he was in Boston, according to the affidavit. He officially resided in Texas with his girlfriend and would travel there “every two or three weeks,” the document said.

Among those responding Sept. 13 included the Northeastern University Police Department, the Boston Police Department’s bomb squad and multiple federal and state law enforcement agencies. The incident triggered the evacuation of a portion of the Northeastern campus.

Duhaime was arrested in October 2022 after an FBI investigation into the hoax. 

On Jan. 23, Duhaime’s two attorneys from the Boston-based law firm Zalkind Duncan & Bernstein dropped him as their client due to “a breakdown in the attorney-client relationship, such that continued representation would not be possible.” It was said in each attorney’s motion to withdraw that Duhaime wished to take his case to trial but would not pay the agreed-upon fees. 

The court appointed Duhaime a public defender following his lawyers’ withdrawal, according to court documents. 

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