Feds defer prosecution of Kansas online gamer in hoax case


WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas online gamer whose dispute over a $1.50 bet sparked a hoax call that resulted in police shooting a man who lived at his old address has struck a deal with prosecutors that could allow the charges against him to be dropped.

U.S. District Judge Eric Melgren approved on Friday the joint motion for deferred prosecution that had been filed earlier in the day by prosecutors and the attorney for 20-year-old Shane Gaskill of Wichita.

Such agreements typically result in charges being dropped if a defendant fulfills all its conditions.

The judge deferred court proceedings and discovery during a period ending on Dec. 31, 2020 and ordered Gaskill to pay $1,000 in restitution, costs and penalties as required under the agreement.

The death of Andrew Finch, 28, in Wichita drew national attention to the practice of “swatting,” a form of retaliation in which someone reports a false emergency to get authorities, particularly a SWAT team, to descend on an address.

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“I think the diversion agreement recognizes in part that Gaskill’s involvement in swatting was less than the others,” said Jim Cross, spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office.

Gaskill is charged with conspiracy, obstruction of justice, wire fraud, and making false statements.

The other online player, Casey Viner, 19, of North College Hill, Ohio, has pleaded guilty to conspiracy and obstruction of justice under a deal in which both sides recommend two years of probation. He will be sentenced on June 26.

Authorities said Viner recruited Tyler R. Barriss to “swat” Gaskill in Wichita stemming from a dispute on the game Call of Duty: WWII. Barriss, a 26-year-old Los Angeles man with an online reputation for “swatting,” called police from Los Angeles on Dec. 28, 2017, to falsely report a shooting and kidnapping at that Wichita address. Finch, who was not involved in the video game or dispute, was shot by police when he opened the door.

Barriss was sentenced in April to 20 years in prison after pleading guilty to 51 counts for making fake emergency calls and threats around the country, including the deadly hoax call in Kansas.

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