MOULTRIE — This article has been corrected from an eariler version.
A man who admitted to making a bomb threat last year that led to the evacuation of the county’s 13 schools was sentenced this week to 30 months in federal prison.
And the case against a second Colquitt County man accused of lying to law enforcement by telling officers that Xavier Sims was not at his residence could go before a grand jury in the fall.
Senior U.S. District Judge Hugh Lawson also sentenced Xavier L. Sims to three years’ supervised release. Sims, 25, of Ellenton, pleaded guilty in March to one count of making a bomb threat.
The sentence seems a satisfactory outcome in the case, Assistant District Attorney Brian McDaniel said during a Wednesday telephone interview. Whether Sims would have received more time if prosecuted locally would have depended on a “lot of factors,” including the criminal charges filed and whether or not he went to trial.
“There wasn’t really a good state criminal charge that carried a lot of weight,” McDaniel said. “It (federal charges) carried a lot of punishment for the confusion and panic he created that day.”
Federal sentences do not come with the possibility of parole, so Sims will serve more than two and a half years behind bars before being considered for release, he said.
Sims could have been sentenced to a maximum of 10 years to serve, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release.
At the time of Sims’ arrest, District Attorney David Miller, who was not commenting on that specific case, said that the most serious state charge initially filed, terroristic threats, would have carried a maximum five-year sentence.
Sims initially was charged locally with terroristic threats and acts, transmitting a false public alarm and 14 misdemeanor counts of disruption of a public school.
Superior Court judges often allow a portion or all of sentences to be served on probation, particularly in cases in which a defendant pleads guilty.
With this case completed, McDaniel said, his office is prepared to move forward with a case against Sims’ uncle, who is accused of telling officers that Sims was not at his 34 S. Fain St., Doerun, house. Jerome Osby was charged with hindering a criminal apprehension.
Xavier Sims was found inside a wall of Osby’s residence, officials said at the time.
“We had been in kind of a holding pattern on him until the outcome of Sims’ case,” McDaniel said.
Osby’s case likely will be presented in September to a grand jury, McDaniel said.
Sims’ trip to federal prison began on Aug. 23, 2011, when he placed a call to the county’s 911 center and said there was a bomb in one of the Colquitt County School System’s 14 facilities. Sims said that he had placed a bomb in an unnamed school to get revenge on a Moultrie Police Department officer who had investigated him in a statutory rape case, a charge for which he has since been indicted. He could serve time in that case upon release from federal prison.
In that case he is accused of having sex with a girl who was 14 at the time. Sims also was a suspect in another Moultrie case in which no charges ever were filed.
The call to 911 led to the school system evacuating all of the schools, totaling 9,000 students.
On the day of the bomb threat, panicked parents converged on schools to get their children, with congestion ensuing at several campuses. Most students were sent home by bus or with parents, with some kept at off-campus sites until they were picked up.
Officials said the drivers rushing to get to schools created a dangerous situation and could have caused wrecks.
Multiple local and outside law enforcement agencies set up a command center at the Colquitt County School Board offices. All schools were searched, with dog-sniffing dogs going through some of the larger facilities.
Sims had hidden inside a wall of the residence, and officers had to tear off a wall panel to get to him.
He was located partially by his cell telephone, from which he had made several calls to 911, Colquitt County Sheriff’s Office investigator Shawn Bostick said at the time. After the initial call made at 9:15 a.m., Sims made at least two other calls to the 911 center.
Sims’ calls were bounced from a tower in the Doerun area, so they concentrated on that area in their search.
Those who would make bomb threats should be aware that technological advances can make tracking callers, even those using cell telephones, easier than it was just a few years ago, said E-911 Director Teresa Warburg.
“It’s very efficient,” she said. “We’re able to go to our maps and click and be within a few feet of a person’s location. Cell phones are traceable.”
As Warburg recalled, officers who had dealt with Sims in the past actually identified him by his voice in the incident last year.
While the school system found a few places to “tweak,” the response on the day of the bomb threat overall was excellent, Schools Assistant Mickey Key, whose duties include school safety, said during a Wednesday telephone interview. Key, coincidentally, was in Tifton at a training session on bomb threats taught by the Georgia Emergency Management Agency.
“Our local law enforcement personnel responded tremendously, as did our school personnel,” Key said.
Some small logistical and transportation issues were addressed, but no major changes were necessary in the event a similar threat occurs, he said. The August 2011 bomb threat was like none ever dealt with previously because it involved the entire system and not a single identified school.
“We didn’t know which school,” Key said. “We were told it could be any of them. That’s 9,000 students that have to be moved. That’s disruption of curriculum, instruction, and parents and their work days. We probably had six or seven law enforcement agencies there.”
No estimate on the monetary costs of the threat was available, but earlier Moultrie Police Chief Frank Lang said agency manpower costs were $1,500 and the Colquitt County Sheriff’s Office costs in overtime salaries for officers called in were estimated at $3,000. The sheriff’s office also suspended daily functions such as delivering court papers.
Other agencies that assisted included Georgia State Patrol troopers Valdosta Police Department and Moody Air Force Base, with both of the latter sending bomb-sniffing dogs.
Officials said that a dollar figure on the biggest costs -- disruption of school time and lives -- could not be calculated.