by Lydia Polgreen, New York Times
A decade ago, it seemed no more than a harmless gimmick. As an
18-year-old student at Syracuse University, Craig Cimmino says, he designed
several fake time bombs to promote an advertising business for a class
project. His design which combined the bombs with a note asking:
your ideas starting to bomb? Call Craig Cimmino!" impressed his
professor, who gave him an A.
But when one of the fake bombs turned up in a trash compactor yesterday
morning, a wary porter in Mr. Cimmino's apartment building in Downtown
Brooklyn called the police. The officers, who arrived at 96 Schermerhorn
Street about 10 a.m., did not consider the device a digital alarm
clock, bits of wire and three sticks of wood painted red like dynamite
harmless at all. They arrested Mr. Cimmino and charged him with
placing a false bomb. The charge, which had been a misdemeanor, was made
felony, punishable by up to four years in jail, after Sept. 11.
"The superintendent comes down and sees this thing, and you can imagine
that the guy, in this climate, thought it was a bomb," one police official
Mr. Cimmino, 28, reached on his cellphone as he sat in an interrogation
room at a police station on Jay Street yesterday evening, was in stunned
disbelief. He said he could not imagine that anyone would mistake the
cartoonish fake bomb for a real one. "I am telling you, it is a bunch of
dowels glued together with an alarm clock," Mr. Cimmino said. "It looked
like something out of Looney Tunes."
But to the police it looked enough like the real thing to prompt them
evacuate the building, much to the annoyance of several residents.
"It seems really absurd," said Carrie Hamilton, who lives in the
building, as she waited to get back into her apartment.
As the building was being evacuated, Mr. Cimmino came outside with his
dog. At first he was concerned about the bomb scare, but when the police
described the device, Mr. Cimmino stepped forward.
"He just raised his hand up and told the cops the clock was his," Ms.
Hamilton said. The police frisked him, handcuffed him and put him in an
unmarked car, Ms. Hamilton said.
"The next thing I know they have me cuffed and I am being charged with
don't even know what," Mr. Cimmino said. "I understand after 9/11 there
lot of concern. But this was an art project, something I did under
supervision of teachers. All I was trying to do was be helpful in coming
forward, and now I am here in jail and they are pressing charges against
Detectives questioned him at the station house, he said, asking why he
had thrown the device out and why he had not disassembled it first. Mr.
Cimmino said he was cleaning out an old dresser when he put the device in
"To most New Yorkers the trash chute is like a black hole," he said.
throw it down there and never think about it again."
Mr. Cimmino was awaiting arraignment yesterday evening. He said he
planned to plead not guilty.