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Student accused of making bomb threat released from police custody

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By Liam Dacko

The Stonehill student held without bail for three weeks after being accused of making threats to the school was released by a judge Monday to his parents’ custody, his attorney said.

District Court Judge Paula J. Clifford released the now-suspended student, Benjamin DiBiase, 21, Monday afternoon following a hearing in Taunton District Court to determine whether he could continue to be held without bail.

He was released following a dangerousness hearing, a proceeding to determine if a person is too dangerous for release or for bail to be set.

DiBiase’s attorney, J. Drew Segadelli, told The Summit the judge set conditions for his client’s release. Those conditions were: abiding the law, attending medical appointments regularly, remaining drug and alcohol free, and holding down a job.

Segadelli said the district attorney’s office asked the judge to hold his client on $10,000 bail, a request the court denied.

“The D.A. wanted to hold him,” Segadelli said. “A 21-year-old with no record.”

DiBiase was a commuter student from Wellesley, Mass. According to the College, he transferred to Stonehill in 2014 and was a junior studying management.

DiBiase was arrested last month after admitting to Campus Police that he made a bomb threat against the College Sept. 24, according to court records. Following his arrest, DiBiase was interim suspended and barred from campus.

Campus Police first learned of the threat the night of Sept. 24 after a custodian found a box labelled “BOMB” and a threatening note in an Old Student Union Bathroom.

Campus Police informed the community about the situation Sept. 25 at approximately 1:15 a.m. School officials worked overnight with outside law enforcement, including Massachusetts State Police, to determine whether or not the threat was credible.

Upon reviewing the state of the investigation early Sept. 25, administrators decided to cancel all school activities for the rest of the day.

Students and faculty received a cancellation notification via email at approximately 11:30 a.m. Employees were allowed to go home and students were given the option to leave campus or remain in residence halls until the threat had been neutralized.

Throughout the rest of the day, officers searched every building on campus. School officials sent a notice to the community via email at approximately 5 p.m. indicating the college would re-open.

The investigation into the threat continued for several weeks.

The main break in the bomb threat case came Oct. 13 when Sgt. David Wordell saw a swastika written in green ink in the men’s restroom on the first floor of the Old Student Union, according to a Stonehill College police report filed in Taunton District Court.

Upon discovery of the drawing, Wordell immediately alerted Chief Peter Carnes and Lt. Detective David Bamford. He also contacted Massachusetts State Police to respond to the scene, the report said. Wordell requested that Crime Scene Services come to campus to process evidence in the case.

As part of the investigation into the graffiti, Bamford reviewed surveillance footage to determine who was responsible. Following the discovery of the threat Sept. 24, College officials arranged for the company SIEMENS to install three cameras in the area. In total, the College has 50 cameras across campus.

According to the police report, Bamford determined from the footage that a male wearing a white Stonehill College sweatshirt and orange or pink shorts stopped at the area where the swastika was drawn Oct. 9 at approximately 1:51 p.m. He remained there for several seconds and was holding a writing instrument.

Upon review, investigators determined the suspect entered classroom 108 in the Old Student Union after leaving the bathroom, as he could not be seen exiting the building, the report said.

Following the discovery of this footage, Campus Police Lt. Cathy Farrington obtained a class list for the course in session in classroom 108 at the time of the incident. Authorities discovered the suspect bore a resemblance to DiBiase, according to a police report filed in Taunton District Court.

Bamford said in a report that DiBiase was asked Oct. 13 to come to a conference room in the Old Student Union at approximately 2:20 p.m. Massachusetts State Trooper Chad Laliberte proceeded to interview DiBiase after he arrived.

During the interview, DiBiase admitted to drawing the swastika Oct. 9 and making the bomb threat Sept. 24, according to the report filed in court. He said he made the threat to get out of an exam that was schedule to take place Sept. 25, the court paperwork noted.

Massachusetts State Police took DiBiase into custody following this admission, according to the police report.

Taunton District Court Judge Paul J. McCalum originally ordered DiBiase held without bail at his arraignment Thursday, Oct. 15. DiBiase was charged with possession of a hoax incendiary device, defacing property, and making a bomb threat with serious public alarm, according to the police report. He plead not guilty to all charges.

Earlier on Oct.  20, Judge Clifford had ordered DiBiase to undergo a 20-day psychiatric evaluation at Bridgewater State Hospital at his dangerousness hearing , which had been continued until Monday.

 

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