Federal Agents Arrest, Detain Alleged California Jammer
"A criminal complaint filed Wednesday afternoon charges Gerritsen with a felony charge of malicious interference with a communications system operated by the United States and a misdemeanor count of transmitting radio signals without a license," said a statement from the office of Debra W. Yang, US Attorney for the Central District of California. "The two charges carry a potential penalty of 11 years in federal prison." A criminal complaint contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime.
The 68-year-old Gerritsen was turned over to federal marshals for booking at the Metropolitan Detention Center, the federal jail in Los Angeles. He was scheduled for an initial appearance May 5 in US District Court in Los Angeles.
According to the criminal complaint, an FCC investigation revealed that Gerritsen "often transmits his prerecorded political messages and real-time harassment and profanity for hours at a time, often making it impossible for licensed radio operators to use the public frequencies."
Gerritsen already faces a total of $52,000 in FCC-imposed or proposed forfeitures for alleged interference. In March, the FCC denied a Petition for Reconsideration and upheld a $10,000 fine against Gerritsen for interfering with Amateur Radio communications. The Commission affirmed the fine in a Forfeiture Order last October. Gerritsen, who claims he's still a Commission licensee and uses KG6IRO on the air, had written the FCC to challenge the fine and its basis. The FCC turned away all of his arguments, but Gerritsen has yet to pay the fine.
An FBI affidavit sworn out this week in advance of obtaining a search warrant of Gerritsen's residence indicates that FCC agents have been investigating multiple instances of unlawful radio transmissions and malicious interference attributed to Gerritsen over the past four years. FCC agents on a regular basis have been monitoring radio transmissions said to be coming from Gerritsen. They've also spoken with him in person and asked to inspect his station, although earlier FCC documents say he refused that request.
In addition to Amateur Radio repeater communications, Gerritsen is alleged to have interfered with Military Affiliate Radio System (MARS) transmissions. The FCC also reported that it has received complaints from other government agencies that Gerritsen interfered with local and state police and fire agencies, the American Red Cross, the US Coast Guard Auxiliary and other radio services. A MARS training exercise in March had to be canceled as a result of interference attributed to Gerritsen.
Earlier this week, Gerritsen, who briefly held the call sign KG6IRO as a Technician licensee, was taken into custody by Bell, California, police officers on an unrelated contempt of court citation after violating the terms of a temporary restraining order (TRO) a local radio amateur had obtained to keep Gerritsen off a local repeater. He was released without bond after being held for a few hours and was reported back on area repeaters not long afterward.
Radio amateurs on the West Coast have been complaining for months about the slow pace of enforcement action in the Gerritsen case. Los Angeles-area repeater owners have taken to shutting down their machines to avoid the nearly constant barrage of malicious interference attributed to Gerritsen.
Five years ago, Gerritsen was convicted of interfering with police radio transmissions. He was convicted in state court and sentenced to 38 months in prison. Following his release in July 2003, the FCC soon began receiving complaints about Gerritsen's activity on the airwaves, according to this week's criminal complaint.
Yang's office said the FBI "received substantial assistance" from the FCC in the case.
Last modified: September 18, 2008