PORTLAND (AP) – Maine’s highest court Thursday threw out a 19-year-old Somali immigrant’s terrorizing conviction for phoning in a bomb threat to Portland High School, saying police failed to read him his Miranda rights.

The Supreme Judicial Court concluded that a detective’s 45-minute interview with Hamza Hassan at the Portland Police Department that yielded incriminating statements was, at least in part, a custodial interrogation.

Hassan entered a conditional guilty plea while moving to suppress the statements he made. The supreme court’s unanimous opinion overturns a Superior Court ruling and sends the case back for further proceedings.

Investigators had traced the December 15, 2005, bomb threat to a phone number at Hassan’s home. When officers arrived there, he agreed to go with them to the police station to talk to the detective.

The detective later told a judge that he didn’t think it was necessary to advise Hassan of his right to remain silent and obtain a lawyer because he was free to stop the questioning and leave the station at any time.

The court disagreed, saying the interrogation became custodial at least from the time Hassan said, “if I leave right now, I’m going to jail,” and the detective replied, “I don’t know that. Uniformed officers make that decision.”

Other factors weighing into the court’s determination included Hassan’s status as an immigrant on probation for a juvenile offense and his being told by the detective that he was the only suspect. The justices also noted that Hassan was more than eight miles from home and had no transportation.

During the interview, Hassan repeatedly denied calling the school but later said he was afraid to admit he did. When Hassan finally indicated he made the call, the detective asked him if he anything to do with bomb threats to other schools, and Hassan answered, “no.”

The detective asked him if it was a one-time stupid thing, Hassan answered, “Yeah, man.”

Later that afternoon, Hassan was arrested, charged with terrorizing and taken to the Long Creek Youth Development Center.


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