Filmmaker convicted in 'terrorist hoax' speaks only to CBS 5Posted: Updated:
For the first time since being released from jail, Phoenix film maker Michael Turley is speaking only to CBS 5 about his experiences.
"In my house, movie props are everywhere. I mean, I'm in the business," said Turley, when asked about how his 16-year-old nephew got his hands on a prop rocket propelled grenade launcher.
Turley said his nephew was playing a video game that had a character dressed in traditional Middle Eastern garb. After playing that game on July 28, 2012, his nephew spontaneously grabbed a sheet and the prop RPG and slipped out of Turley's front door.
"He had taken off up the street, so I followed him and when he went into an area where I felt he shouldn't' be, I flipped my camera into video mode and I started to call him back," said Turley.
"Why did you flip the camera into video mode?" asked CBS 5's Greg Argos.
"Honestly, I flipped the camera into video mode out of instinct I think more than anything," he responded, pointing out his background in television and film.
Within minutes, investigators say nine people called 911 about the suspiciously dressed person at 33rd Avenue and Bell Road.
When officers arrived, Turley said police questioned him and his nephew before being released.
"A few other officers addressed us and said, 'What we see here is stupid, but no crimes have been committed. Refrain from doing something like this in the future.' [Then the officers] let us go," recalled Turley.
After writing a script saying the two were testing police response to a terrorist attack, Turley posted the video two days after the incident. In Sept. 2012 - two months after the video went online - it went viral and Turley was arrested.
"I was very surprised. Honestly, I had forgotten all about the video. Some officers came into my driveway - they called me a terrorist. They took me downtown and had filed four felony counts against me," said Turley.
He was convicted in July 2013 of one count of knowingly giving a false impression of a terrorist act, as well as endangerment. A judge sentenced him to two weeks in Tent City. He was released last week and says he never should have been charged with anything.
"I was made an example of - I did something wrong. I made fun of Phoenix Police Department," said Turley.
Turley said the entire ordeal has been a life lesson, and he wants others to know to be careful when posting video online.
"If a filmmaker can face charges over a fictional film that was made over an event that you're told is non-criminal, every mother and father runs the risk of being prosecuted for sharing family videos on Facebook," he said.
Phoenix police and prosecutors point out that Turley's 16-year-old nephew could have been killed if drivers or responding officers thought the threat was real.
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