Los Angeles Assemblyman Mike Gatto ‘swats’ at flies

AP File PhotoL.A. lawmaker Mike Gatto is taking action after a prankster called SWAT teams to celebrities’ homes.

The state Legislature doesn’t even meet until Jan. 7, but already our star-struck elected officials are eager to ingratiate themselves with the glamorous Hollywood film industry.  

This past week, Assemblyman Mike Gatto, D-Los Angeles, introduced a bill to increase the penalties for “swatting.” If you’re not a teenage girl or the parent of one, you might not be aware of this phenomenon.

In Los Angeles, someone has been duping local authorities into dispatching SWAT teams to the homes of celebrities — hence the name “swatting.” The culprit has caused massive law enforcement responses to fake reports of an armed man at the homes of both Justin Bieber and Ashton Kutcher, and a hostage situation at Miley Cyrus’ house. The cops arrive with their helmets and helicopters only to be turned away by bewildered celebrity assistants.

Currently, the penalty for using 911 to harass someone is a fine of not more than $1,000 and no more than six months in jail. Gatto’s legislation increases the fine limit to $10,000 and the jail time to one or two years. Also, the pranksters who engage in swatting can be ordered to pay “all reasonable costs incurred by any unnecessary emergency response.”

But I’m not sure how useful all this will be. The day after Gatto introduced the law, authorities apprehended the alleged mastermind behind all the chaos. He is a 12-year-old boy.

Melissa Griffin’s column runs each Thursday and Sunday. She also appears Mondays in “Mornings with Melissa” at  6:45 a.m. on KPIX (Ch. 5). Email her at mgriffin@sfexaminer.com.  

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