Jury to decide if ‘hashtag Las Vegas’ a threat
CRYSTAL FALLS — A jury trial started Wednesday for an Alpha man accused of threatening an Iron County business during a telephone call to the Iron County Sheriff’s Office, with the prosecution and defense offering different versions of what he meant by the phrase, “hashtag Las Vegas.”
Wilson Thompson Byczek, 38, faces false report or threat of terrorism, a 20-year felony; malicious use of telecommunications services, a six-month misdemeanor; and a habitual offender-fourth status, which could increase the maximum penalty on the felony to life.
Byczek had been involved in an accident while digging a ditch at the Lac O’ Seasons Resort southwest of Iron River several years ago, leaving him with broken hips and a closed head injury, defense attorney Karl Numinen said.
He was “fed up” about not getting money for his injuries from the resort or a police report on the incident from the Iron County Sheriff’s Department, Iron County Prosecutor Melissa Powell claimed.
During an Oct. 12 phone call to the sheriff’s department, Byczek was upset and rambling and said “it would be hashtag Las Vegas” if he didn’t get what he wanted, Deputy Adam Schiavo testified.
Schiavo said he interpreted this as a threat referencing the Oct. 1 mass shooting incident in Las Vegas. He determined Byczek was in Spokane, Wash., at the time with his brother, but he still notified the owners of the Lac O’ Seasons Resort as a precaution.
Numinen argued Schiavo misunderstood Byczek, who said “but right now, it’s hashtag Las Vegas,” in reference to his traveling from Spokane to Las Vegas before returning home to Alpha to deal with filing the police report.
The phone call wasn’t recorded, no other deputies overheard it and Schiavo wasn’t wearing a body camera at the time, Numinen pointed out.
Furthermore, Numinen noted FBI agents who interviewed Byczek in Spokane found no guns, ammunition or bombs and didn’t arrest him until he started traveling back to Michigan in early November.
Powell reminded the jury the charge doesn’t require Byczek to have the ability to carry out his threat.
A jury of eight women and five men will hear the case, which may last through Friday.