Undercover officers have arrested a 63-year-old Chicago man on accusations that he used a handheld jamming device to disrupt mobile phone service on the subway.
Enlarge / Photo from Reddit of the alleged cell phone jammer.
The lawyer for the financial analyst at the University of Illinois Hospital & Health Sciences System said his client just wanted peace and quiet on his commute. “He’s disturbed by people talking around him,” Chicago attorney Charles Lauer said of defendant Dennis Nicholl. “He might have been selfish in thinking about himself, but he didn’t have any malicious intent.”
The Chicago Tribune also said that a local judge, when setting $10,000 bail after the Tuesday arrest, dubbed the defendant “the cellphone police.” Lauer did not immediately respond to Ars’ request for comment.
Chicago Transit Authority commuters have been complaining for months that their mobile devices were suddenly losing connectivity while riding Chicago’s subway and elevated train lines. Pictures of the alleged culprit had been circulating on social media and even on Reddit.
An undercover operation, police said, led to the man’s arrest on a felony charge of signal jamming, which carries a maximum penalty of a year in prison.
In a statement, Chicago police said:
Dennis Nicholl was arrested after he was identified as the man utilizing a signal jamming device on the CTA Redline.
CTA Authorities have been investigating complaints by passengers about cell phone reception. With the help of an anonymous 911 call, the Chicago Police Department and CTA Authorities were able to identify the suspect. Nicholl was observed utilizing the jamming device on the Redline by covert officers in a joint operation with CPD, CTA and the FCC. Nicholl entered the CTA Redline at the Loyola stop on the morning of March 8th , 2016 and utilized the interference device between the Loyola and Granville stops. He was arrested without incident on the Granville CTA Platform.
A photo of the defendant on a recent Reddit post shows what appears to be Nicholl in a rail car with a soda can in between his legs. He’s holding the bulky handheld jammer, which can be purchased online.
The jammer has five antennae or prongs jutting from it and looks like a walkie-talkie.
The Chicago Tribune said the defendant pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of jamming mobile phones in 2009. His equipment was confiscated, and he was sentenced to a year of probation, the paper reported.