Trial begins for man accused in terrorism hoax

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By Jennifer Thomas By Jennifer Thomas
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman

PHOENIX (AP) -- Lawyers began opening statements Wednesday in the trial of an Arizona man accused of sending his nephew into a street with a fake grenade launcher as he filmed the masked teen pointing the fake weapon at passing cars.

Prosecutors allege 40-year-old filmmaker Michael David Turley endangered his 16-year-old nephew in staging the mock terrorism scenario on July 28 at a busy intersection in northwest Phoenix. Turley has pleaded not guilty to charges of endangerment and engaging in a criminal hoax.

In a YouTube video of the hoax, a narrator identified by police as Turley said he wanted to see how long it took authorities to respond to a terrorist situation and mentioned a movie theater shooting two weeks earlier that killed 12 people in Aurora, Colo.

The teenager, whose body was draped in a sheet and whose head was wrapped in a scarf, carried the fake launcher on his shoulder as he made his way across a crosswalk. The narrator said the teen wanted to appear as intimidating as possible in hopes that people would call police.

The video also showed the first police officer to arrive on the scene, finding the 16-year-old as he stood in a driveway. The officer calmly told the teenager to put down the weapon and Turley to put down the camera. The officer didn't draw his gun.

Recordings of 911 calls showed that most people who saw the 16-year-old told authorities that they assumed the weapon was a fake, though one caller said the teen pointed the launcher at him.

Turley's arrest came nearly two months after the hoax. Police left the scene that day without making any arrests. But Turley was later arrested after police interviewed people who called emergency services and later saw the video posted on YouTube.

If convicted of both charges, Turley would face penalties ranging from only probation to more than five years in prison.

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