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Nicholasville teens receive federal prison for social media threats

From staff reports

LEXINGTON – Two Nicholasville teenagers will head to federal prison for using social media to harass and intimidate an acquaintance and threaten a shooting at a Jessamine County school.

On Friday, U. S. District Judge Danny C. Reeves sentenced 18-year-old Tristan H. Kelly to 21 months, while 19-year-old Cody T. Ritchey received 27 months, after they each pleaded guilty in June to one count of cyberstalking.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Kentucky, Kelly and Ritchey both admitted they worked together to create a Snapchat profile on Feb. 17, 2018, using the name and picture of a third person who did not know about their actions, then used the profile to publish a series of posts suggesting the third individual would use firearms to attack a Jessamine County public school in February 2018.

Among other posts, Kelly and Ritchey made references to a school shooting that had occurred in Florida only days earlier.

Kelly and Ritchey also admitted they used this Snapchat profile to send direct messages to K.S., an acquaintance of the two.  Among other messages, Kelly and Ritchey told K.S. “you’re the reason im killin [sic] everybody make it stop,” and “send nudes and ill [sic] let you live.”  As part of their plea agreements, Kelly and Ritchey both admitted they understood these messages could reasonably be expected to cause substantial emotional distress.

Law enforcement immediately investigated the threats, identified Kelly and Ritchey as the source, and determined the threats were a hoax.

“The defendants’ conduct was extremely serious, as reflected in the sentences imposed today by the Court,” said Robert M. Duncan, Jr., United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Kentucky.  “The defendants’ callous and alarming conduct, coming only days after the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida, needlessly put people in fear of a similar tragedy and expended precious law enforcement resources.  Deterring this type conduct is critical and we will continue to make that a priority for our Office.”

Under federal law, Kelly and Ritchey must each serve 85 percent of their prison sentences.  Upon their release, they will each be under the supervision of the United States Probation Office for three years.

The investigation was conducted by the Nicholasville Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.