Suspects in alleged Pokémon plot held without bail
Two Iowa residents charged with plotting an attack at a Boston Pokémon competition were heavily armed men prepared to commit the “mass casualty situation’’ they described in social media postings, a prosecutor said Tuesday.
James Stumbo and Kevin Norton appeared for a dangerousness hearing in Boston Municipal Court where Suffolk Assistant District Attorney Joseph Janezic urged Judge Thomas C. Horgan to order the men held without bail for the next 120 days.
Janezic insisted the two men showed every sign of carrying out the threat to attack the Pokémon competition at the Hynes Convention Center last month , an assault he said was prevented only because Boston police stopped the pair before they acted.
“This is a case of these two young men making some threats and references to weapons, intimidating on social media, intimidating specific individuals on social media, and then driving 25 hours from Iowa with two guns, which they posted and displayed in a post saying ‘Here we come, Boston,’ ” Janezic said.
Authorities allege they found an AR-15 rifle, 12-gauge Remington shotgun, hundreds of rounds of ammunition, and a hunting knife in the 2002 Chevrolet Prizm the men had driven to Boston.
On a Facebook page called “Mayhem Pokemon Crew,” Stumbo, 27, allegedly posted a photo of a white sedan with two long guns crossed over the trunk. “Kevin Norton and I are ready for worlds Boston here we come!!!” he wrote.
And after Norton, 18, was barred from a chat room for bullying another person, he allegedly stated, “Oh, OK, that’s fine then I will just shoot him on Friday thanks.”
Reached by phone Tuesday, the person Norton referred to in the posting, who the Globe is not naming because he is the target of an alleged threat, said he first encountered Norton at a Pokémon tournament in March in Missouri.
The man, a St. Louis resident, said he accused Norton of cheating when they played against each other, and that Norton said virtually nothing during the game.
“That’s not normal,” the man said. “It’s a very social game, so we have a lot of interaction. ”
Afterward, the man said, Norton constantly harassed him online, lobbing juvenile insults and prompting the man to block Norton on Facebook.
The man said Boston police pulled him aside at the Hynes tournament and asked whether he knew about Norton “directly targeting me at all,” which he did not.
He said police later informed him about the seizure of guns from the car and the arrests.
H e said he does not fear for his safety.
“I know [Norton] doesn’t like me, because I called him on the cheating thing,” the man said. “I’d expect myself to be, like, one of his targets. ”
He said that unlike Norton, Stumbo was cordial when he played against him during a tournament in Wisconsin last year .
“It was just a normal game,” the man said. “[Stumbo] was pretty friendly. ”
The event at the Hynes Convention Center brought together enthusiasts to play the popular trading card game.
When officers stopped the Iowa men from entering the convention center on Aug. 20, Stumbo allegedly said he was being stopped because of a post he made on Facebook, and Norton allegedly said that a photo of guns he posted was being “taken out of context.”
Police said there was not enough probable cause to arrest the men based on photographs, so detectives worked overnight to obtain search warrants.
Norton and Stumbo were barred from the competition and placed under surveillance until their arrest on Aug. 22.
Several screenshots of alleged threats were included with the court documents, and showed Stumbo telling others involved in a conversation that included references to the shooting at Columbine High School and the Boston Marathon bombings, “My AR-15 says you lose.”
But defense attorneys contended that the posts were just talk, and that there was no evidence that their clients, who showed no emotion throughout the hearing, were planning to carry out their threats.
Steven Goldwyn, who represents Stumbo, said it was “mere speculation” that the men intended real-life violence, pointing out that they were not armed when police stopped them from entering the convention center.
“If they really had the true intent to do anything about it, why leave [the weapons] in the car?” he asked. “It’s absolutely possible, but it’s mere speculation that this vague bravado talk on Facebook was going to be carried out.”
Neither has a criminal record, their lawyers said, and the charges they face are firearm-related, not for making threats.
After the hearing, Stumbo spoke briefly to his mother and brother, who came from Iowa. “I’m OK,” he whispered.
Horgan ordered both men held without bail for 120 days.