Government resumes prosecution in fatal ‘crush’ case
BEAUTIFUL PLAIN, Kan. (AP) – A Kansas player whose online dispute with another player sparked a deadly hoax will face a jury after violating the terms of a diversion deal he made with prosecutors, said a judge on Monday.
U.S. District Judge Eric Melgren granted the government’s request to resume prosecution of Shane Gaskill of Wichita and set his trial for October 5.
Gaskill is charged with conspiracy, wire fraud and other counts in a series of events on December 28, 2017, which resulted in t Police fatal shooting of innocent 28-year-old on the porch of his family’s home in Wichita.
Andrew Finch’s death has drawn national attention to “swatting,” a form of retaliation in which someone reports a false emergency to get authorities, especially a SWAT team, to descend on an address.
Gaskill had reached an 18-month pre-trial diversion agreement with prosecutors in December 2019 that could have allowed the charges against him to be dropped. This agreement was extended in December 2020 for an additional year to give it more time to obtain his high school equivalency.
But prosecutors informed his defense attorney in February of their intention to resume prosecution after the US Probation Office informed the government that Gaskill had violated the terms of his diversion.
The government record does not indicate exactly how Gaskill violated these conditions, but his defense attorney Stephen Ariagno noted in his response that Gaskill did not violate any laws and refrain from consuming alcohol. and drugs. He also submitted his letter of apology and paid all costs.
His lawyer argues that Gaskill, who suffers from learning disabilities, had struggled with online learning after the in-person program was closed by the coronavirus pandemic. When the program restarted this year, classes quickly filled up to capacity and he was unable to start them until March 1. He is now taking classes in person, according to the defense file.
Ariagno did not immediately respond to an appeal seeking comment on the judge’s decision granting the government’s request to resume prosecution.
Gaskill had an online argument with Ohio player Casey Viner while they were playing the Call of Duty video game. Authorities said Viner recruited Tyler R. Barriss to “crush” Gaskill, who was 19 at the time. But the address they used was an old one, leading police to Finch, who was not involved in the argument or playing the video game.
Barriss, a Los Angeles man with an online reputation for “swatting” called Los Angeles Police to falsely report a shooting and kidnapping at this Wichita address. Finch was shot by police when he opened the door to see what was going on outside.
Gaskill was charged with a co-conspirator after knowingly giving Barriss the same old address and taunting him for “trying something.”
Barriss is serving 20 years in federal prison after pleading guilty to 51 counts in April 2019. Viner was sentenced to 15 months in prison in September 2019 after pleading guilty to conspiracy and obstruction of justice.
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