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Former Northeastern employee indicted in hoax staged explosion on campus

A former Northeastern University employee was indicted Thursday on federal charges that he staged a detonation of a Pelican case on campus in September, an incident that prompted a substantial law enforcement response, according to prosecutors and court records.

Jason Duhaime, 45, was indicted on one count of intentionally conveying false and misleading information related to an explosive device and two counts of making materially false statements to federal law enforcement agents, according to US Attorney Rachael S. Rollins’s office.

A lawyer for Duhaime, who at the time of the Sept. 13 incident was working as the new technology manager and director of the Immersive Media Lab at Northeastern, didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking comment Thursday afternoon.

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It wasn’t immediately clear Thursday when Duhaime, who was arrested Oct. 4 in Texas, will be arraigned in US District Court in Boston.

Duhaime, who vigorously denied staging the explosion in a Globe interview in September, initially told police he was injured by sharp objects that flew out of the plastic case when he opened it inside the Northeastern lab, according to an affidavit. He repeated the claim to investigators while being treated at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

He also told investigators the exploding case had spit out a rambling, type written letter referring to robots walking around campuses and accusing the university of working with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, but investigators who examined the letter found it was neatly folded and undamaged, legal filings allege. In addition, authorities found a “word-for-word, electronic copy” of the letter stored in a backup folder on Duhaime’s computer, the affidavit said.

Investigators also found no evidence of an explosion: “no small or sharp objects” were found in the case, or anywhere in the lab, according to the affidavit, and there was “no physical damage” to the case, Duhaime’s shirt, or the letter itself.

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“The inside and outside of the case did not bear any marks, dents, cracks, holes, or other signs that it had been exposed to a forceful or explosive discharge of any type or magnitude,” the affidavit said.

The Northeastern student present in the lab at the time of the alleged explosion told investigators he watched Duhaime enter a closet, yell, and then immediately exit the closet. The student “did not hear any noises coming from inside the closet other than Duhaime’s voice,” the affidavit said.

After Duhaime called 911, police descended on the campus, including two bomb squads, and multiple buildings were evacuated. The next day, law enforcement officials told the Globe they were skeptical about his version of events because of inconsistencies in his story.

In a statement earlier this month, Northeastern officials thanked the law enforcement agencies involved in the case.

“Knowing what we know now about this incident, we would like to make it clear that there was never any danger to the Northeastern community,” the university said.

Material from prior Globe stories was used in this report.




Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.