WILKES-BARRE – A text message allegedly sent by William Hoffman that stated the sender had intended to blow up two Wyoming Valley high schools was meant as a joke, his family said Thursday.
Several family members attended Hoffman's preliminary hearing, pooling their money to post his bail, which was modified by District Judge Rick Cronauer from $1 million to $10,000.
Hoffman, 41, of Bennett Street, Luzerne, waived his right to a preliminary hearing, sending to Luzerne County Court a felony charge of threatening to use weapons of mass destruction and a misdemeanor count of terroristic threats.
His attorney, William Ruzzo, tried unsuccessfully to negotiate a deal with Deputy Assistant District Attorney Alexis Falvello to drop the felony charge.
City police allege Hoffman on Dec. 21 sent a threatening text message to the cellphone of George Isaacs by mistake, intending to send it to his girlfriend's daughter. The cell number for Isaacs and the daughter differ by only one digit.
According to the criminal complaint, the message stated: I am going to shoot up everyone I see on Watkins St. tomorrow. Initially I was going to blow up GAR and WVW but I changed my mind. So u better go the hell to school tomorrow. Signed…random mysterious psychotic killer.
Hoffman sent a second message, the complaint alleges, which read: Sorry that was a bad joke to the wrong number. Oops.
Isaacs took his cellphone to Kingston Township police in light of the recent mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., where 20 children and six staff members were killed.
Hoffman's family, including his step-mother, brother and uncle, who refused to provide their names due to business concerns, commended Isaacs for going to police.
The step-mother said the message was intended as a joke, noting Hoffman quickly surrendered to authorities when contacted by a Wilkes-Barre Area school official.
Hoffman was ordered by Cronauer not to consume alcohol and to submit to a mental-health evaluation. He is prohibited from entering public schools without permission from the District Attorney's Office.
Hoffman is scheduled to be formally arraigned in county court on March 8.