BOSTON — Federal investigators on Tuesday announced an arrest in connection with a reported “explosion” on the campus of Northeastern University. The feds say the man facing charges is an NU worker who claimed he was injured in that incident. According to an FBI affidavit, the FBI believes Jason Duhaime “fabricated” the story.
Duhaime was employed as the New Technology Manager and Director of the Immersive Media Lab at Northeastern University.
The incident prompted a massive emergency response at the university on September 13th.
“Law enforcement officers from the Northeastern University Police Department and the Boston Police Department were first to arrive on scene, followed shortly thereafter by agents from the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force,” said U.S. Attorney Rachel Rollins at a Tuesday press conference. “His alleged actions diverted significant law enforcement resources away from essential public safety matters and caused fear and panic, not only on campus, but also in the homes of the families and friends and loved ones of Northeastern students, faculty and staff.”
Duhaime was arrested in San Antonio, Texas on Tuesday. He’s expected to face a judge in San Antonio federal court on Tuesday afternoon.
“I have probable cause to believe that certain information provided by Duhaime to the 911 operator and to the federal agent—namely that he was injured by “sharp” objects expelled from the Subject Case and that the case contained a threatening letter—was fabricated by Duhaime,” according to the affidavit by FBI Special Agent Steven Kimball.
“Evidence discovered during the FBI’s ongoing investigation indicates that Duhaime himself authored the threatening letter. I believe, based on the ongoing investigation, that the Subject Case contained no “sharp” objects, that no objects were expelled from the case when Duhaime opened it, and that Duhaime sustained no injuries as a result of opening the Subject Case,” said Kimball in his affidavit.
“What Jason Duhaime is accused of doing is cause for concern on several levels,” said Boston’s FBI Special Agent-In-Charge Joseph Bonavolonta, who also attended Tuesday’s press conference. “Throughout the course of our investigation we believe he repeatedly lied to us about what happened inside the lab, faked his injuries and wrote a rambling letter directed at the lab threatening more violence.”
While, ultimately, no explosive devices were found, Bonavolonta said law enforcement had no choice but to expansively respond.
“And answering those calls leaves no room for error,” he said. “Most turn out to be false alarms or hoaxes, like what happened in this case. But no call can go unanswered. Because in our line of work, preventing a terrorist attack or disarming a live pipe bomb or rendering safe an active, improvised explosive device, can be the difference between life or death.”
Duhaime is facing federal charges of “conveying false information related to an explosive device” and “making false and fictitious statements within the executive branch of the government of the United States.
“We believe Mr. Duhaime wanted to be the victim but instead victimized his entire community by instilling fear at college campuses in Massachusetts and beyond,” said Bonavolonta.
Days after the explosion, reports surfaced indicating that the incident was being investigated as a possible hoax.
At the scene, police found the letter that Duhaime had claimed to the 911 operator came with the explosive box. The letter mentioned Harvard University and MIT. It also included a rant against Facebook founder Mark Zuckerburg.
“Forensic analysis of one of the computers seized during a Sept. 14, 2022 search of Duhaime’s office at Northeastern University allegedly revealed a word-for-word electronic copy of the letter stored in a backup folder. According to court documents, the metadata associated with this file reflected a “Created Date/Time” of Sept. 13, 2022, at 2:57 p.m. and a “Last Printed Date/Time” of Sept. 13, 2022, at 4:02 p.m.” according to a statement from the US Attorney’s office.
In addition, the criminal complaint notes that neither the box containing the alleged bomb -- nor the letter that Duhaime claimed was inside the box -- had suffered any damage.
According to the affidavit, Duhaime was questioned for about 90 minutes at a Boston hospital on the night of the incident.
The affidavit shows Duhaime described what happened to investigators.
“I unlock [the Subject Case] … and I open it up. And as soon as I opened it up, all this energy and, like, these things come flying out. And I had a long sleeve shirt, and they flew up underneath, basically, and hit my arm. The case went up and then it came down,” said Duhaime, according to the FBI affidavit.
“I’m telling you the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth so help me God,” said Duhaime, according to the FBI affidavit.
The Northeastern University employee was quoted in the Boston Globe as denying the case was a hoax.
The charges of intentionally conveying false and misleading information related to an explosive device and making materially false statements to a federal law enforcement agent each provide for a sentence of up to five years in prison, up to three years of supervised release, and a fine of up to $250,000, according to the US Attorney’s office.
In a statement to Boston 25, Northeastern University said Duhaime is no longer employed by the school.
“Northeastern would like to thank the professionals in the FBI, the US Attorney’s Office, and Boston Police Department for bringing this investigation to a close. Knowing what we know now about this incident, we would like to make it clear that there was never any danger to the Northeastern community. As always, the safety of our students, faculty, and staff is our highest priority,” according to the statement.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.
Download the FREE Boston 25 News app for breaking news alerts.
©2022 Cox Media Group