Hacker gets 3 years for 911 hoax that sent SWAT team into family's home

SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) - A computer hacker from Washington state was sentenced to three years in prison for placing a phony 911 call that led a SWAT team to storm a family home at gunpoint.

It marked the first prosecution in Orange County for a prank known as "swatting" that involves sending SWAT teams on wild goose chases, county district attorney's spokeswoman Farrah Emami said Thursday.

Randal T. Ellis, 19, pleaded guilty Wednesday in Orange County Superior Court to five felony counts, including computer access and fraud, false imprisonment by violence and falsely reporting a crime.

He was given prison time and ordered to pay $14,765 in restitution, most of which will go to the county Sheriff's Department.

A call to Ellis's attorney, Ronald Brower, was not immediately returned Thursday.

Ellis, of Mukilteo, Wash., placed a 911 call at about 11:30 p.m. last March 29, at first claiming to report a drug overdose and then alleging a possible murder, investigators said.

Prosecutors said he hacked the 911 system and transmitted phony information that appeared to show he was calling from a Lake Forest home.

A sheriff's SWAT team accompanied by police dogs and a helicopter descended on the home, where a couple and their two toddlers were sleeping, Emami said.

Doug Bates, awakened by a noise, thought there were prowlers outside and grabbed a kitchen knife. When he checked the backyard, he found SWAT team deputies pointing assault rifles at him.

Bates and his wife were handcuffed until authorities determined the call was a hoax.

"That very easily could have turned deadly," Emami said.

Ellis was arrested last October and had remained jailed since then.

"Even though he wasn't there himself ... holding these people in their homes at gunpoint, he was directly responsible," Emami said.