'Batman' faces terrorism charges for April Fool's joke gone wrong

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Dec 17, 2012

April Fool's gags involving threats of death and destruction are never a good idea, but they're an even worse idea when you're a guy that dresses up as Batman and hangs around outside local bars with a boombox. One self-styled Dark Knight found that out the hard way Sunday when he wound up in jail.

Christopher Schwartz—the 35-year-old guy who styles himself the "Bar Harbor Batman" of Bar Harbor, Maine—is best known around town for dressing up in cape and cowl, going down to local bars and blaring music from his boombox while dancing. Schwartz has had run-ins with the local police before, mostly because they wanted him to turn down his music, but Sunday he got a little more than a warning after posting the following on his Facebook fan page:

"I demand payment of 1 million dollars or I will blow up the hospital. Once the funds are secured, private message me for further instruction."

Someone among the Bar Harbor Batman's Facebook fans took the threat seriously enough to report it to police, who thought it was serious enough to warrant investigating further, especially since Schwartz lives only blocks from a local hospital. Officer Thom Tardiff of the Bar Harbor Police Department claims that when he showed up, Schwartz said he was joking, but then asked if police had brought the money he demanded.

"That's when I took it a little more seriously," Tardiff told the Bangor Daily News.

Schwartz tells a somewhat different story, claiming that when police showed up he offered to remove the post and issue a public apology, but they took him to jail anyway.

"It was a demoralizing and humiliating experience," Schwartz said in an email to the Daily News. "I feel that my civil liberties have been violated."

Schwartz has since taken to his Facebook page to continue defending the statement as a joke and emphasizing that he considers himself an entertainer.

"None of this is real and should NOT in anyway be taken as such!" he wrote.

His Facebook fans continue to comment with statements of support, and Schwartz has added a new disclaimer photo to the page asking visitors to "use some common sense" and not take anything on the page seriously. The offending April Fool's post has not been taken down.

The local district attorney's office is reviewing the incident to determine whether Schwartz will be indicted on terrorizing charges. However the case works out, police maintain that it was their responsibility to take the gag seriously until they could prove it wasn't real.

"In the era we live in, you can't take them lightly," Tardiff said.

(via Robot 6)