Austin Owens / Lantern photographer
Some students will go to great lengths to get out of class for the day. Jonathan M. Birkemeyer went too far.
Birkemeyer, a 24-year-old former Ohio State student and former Marine from Xenia, pleaded guilty Monday to a charge of maliciously conveying false information during the Nov. 16, 2010, bomb scare at OSU. This charge can carry punishment of up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
FBI special agent Kenneth Smith read a statement of facts during the hearing relating to the FBI’s investigation of the events. Smith quoted from the email that Birkemeyer sent to the FBI’s tip website at 7:38 a.m. on Nov. 16.
“I have a paper that I found that has a detailed map of nine bombs placed in four different buildings on the Ohio State University campus,” Smith read. “Sheets say bombs made of chemical and high explosive powder?”
Birkemeyer looked on stoically as Smith read the report.
The threat caused massive disruption when the FBI alerted OSU officials later that November morning. The four buildings mentioned in Birkemeyer’s email—McPherson Laboratory, Scott Laboratory, Smith Laboratory and the William Oxley Thompson Memorial Library—were evacuated, leaving more than 1,500 students without class to attend, and much of 18th Avenue was closed to pedestrian traffic.
The FBI, OSU Police and Columbus Fire Department bomb squad combed the buildings for 12 hours with bomb-sniffing dogs, ultimately finding no evidence of an actual threat.
For a crime that caused so much havoc, the motives turned out to be rather mundane.
Smith said that Birkemeyer had an exam scheduled in McPherson Laboratory the morning of the scare. During the investigation, FBI access to Birkemeyer’s computer showed that he had downloaded the review sheet for the exam the day before.
The professor who taught the class (not named in the report) told the FBI that Birkemeyer had told the professor “he was having a tough time making the transition from the military to being a full-time college student.”
Investigators found that the original email had been posted using an iPod Touch by looking into its IP (Internet Protocol) address. According the report, an Apple computer with the same IP address accessed a web page featuring a map of McPherson Laboratory. Birkemeyer had logged onto his Facebook account on the computer 13 minutes earlier.
As it turned out, the devices were both reported stolen. The iPod was reported stolen by a Marine serving aboard the USS John C. Stennis, the same carrier Birkemeyer served on during his stint with the Marines. The laptop was reported stolen by his neighbor on Oct. 9. Birkemeyer pleaded guilty to burglary and receiving stolen property on May 27 in Franklin County Court of Common Pleas.
A date for sentencing was not set. A parole officer will consider Birkemeyer’s case and his previous criminal charges in determining a suggested sentence, and the court will make a final decision.
After the trial, Birkemeyer’s attorney Keith W. Schneider said that he couldn’t comment on whether other individuals were involved in Birkemeyer’s actions.
Birkemeyer studied criminology at OSU from Autumn Quarter 2009 through Autumn Quarter 2010. He withdrew from the university amid the ongoing investigation during Winter Quarter.
Amy Murray, assistant director of media relations for OSU, said the university has not issued any official statements on the issue.
According to the FBI report, Birkemeyer still had to take the make-up exam two days later, despite telling his professor that turning his computer in as “forensic evidence” to investigators prevented him from studying.