The Bomb was Fake, The Handcuffs Real
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: "Are 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 a 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 said.
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 to 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 I don't even know what," Mr. Cimmino said. "I understand after 9/11 there is a 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 me."
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 a garbage bag.
"To most New Yorkers the trash chute is like a black hole," he said. "You 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.