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Mark Bote's prosecution for bomb threat on plane could turn into schmucky business

Determining who is and isn't a schmuck, and finding where the schmuckiness hides, is a big part of what we do here at Schmuck of the Week HQ. And the answers aren't always definitive.

A case in point: the arrest and prosecution of Thornton's Mark Bote. At first blush, his actions -- muttering about a bomb in his backpack mid-flight -- seem like classic schmucky behavior. But the criminal complaint on view below suggests that this case might be considerably more complicated.

According to the complaint, the incident in question took place June 14 on a Frontier Airlines flight from Knoxville, Tennessee to Denver. The narrative quotes numerous passengers (all identified by initials) who sat within earshot of Bote, age 23 and captured in this image by Nick Danneberger, who shared his pics with CBS4:

Mark Bote's prosecution for bomb threat on plane could turn into schmucky business
Photo courtesy of Nick Danneberger

The consensus among those who spoke to investigators is that Bote was excessively nervous, with one witness saying that he rocked back and forth in his seat before the plane took off and seemed just as agitated during the flight.

This anxiety was focused on his backpack. He wore the item on his back until being told by a flight attendant to stow it under his seat. But later in the flight, he's said to have clutched it to himself while muttering, "Help me. Help me. Help me."

"What's the matter?" a flight attendant asked him.

One witness recall his reply like so: "There's a bomb. There's a bomb."

The flight attendant didn't immediately panic. Instead, she asked him, "Do you know what you just told me."

"Yes," he said.

At that point, the backpack was taken from Bote and what are described as "bomb procedures" were implemented; they included moving passengers and bags. Bote tried to get up, but was told to remain seated, and did so; he appears not to have caused further disruptions. But the damage had been done, with other passengers taken off the plane in an emergency manner, as captured in another photo by Nick Danneberger:

Mark Bote's prosecution for bomb threat on plane could turn into schmucky business
Photo courtesy of Nick Danneberger

Did Bote know what he was doing when he triggered this reaction? The next portion of the complaint against him raises real questions.

Continue for more about the Mark Bote arrest, including another photo, a video and two documents.

Mark Bote's prosecution for bomb threat on plane could turn into schmucky business
Photo courtesy of Nick Danneberger

In the document, a passenger who'd been traveling with Bote provides some very interesting background. She says she and Bote were part of a mission trip to Tennessee, where they helped to build a church -- and while they were in the state, Bote offered "testimony," presumably in a religious setting, that he'd been "born with a mental handicap."

The passenger added that Bote had been in a hospital for depression several weeks prior to the flight, and his mood during the trip caused her to ask his mother if he was on the correct medication. Bote's mom replied that "he has problems and gets disoriented if he doesn't get enough sleep."

This last line resonates in the context of Bote's own comments to authorities. He's quoted as saying that someone had been following and stalking him on the plane -- and he wondered if it might be someone from Goodwill, where he used to volunteer. Shortly thereafter, he began to worry that someone had put a bomb in his backpack, because it seemed heavier than it had previously. He added that he'd verbalized this fear because he wanted to warn people of danger, not frighten them.

Frightened they were, however, and despite all of this information, a federal grand jury indicted Bote this week on two very serious charges: one count of interference with flight crew members and attendants and another for false information and threats. If he's convicted of the first allegation, he faces up to twenty years in prison and a possible $250,000 fine. The latter could bring five years in prison and a similar fine.

Clearly, Bote's mental state and capabilities must be analyzed when it comes to possible punishment. Here's hoping the ultimate response is appropriate, proportionate and not the least bit schmucky.

Here's a CBS4 report about the incident, followed by the criminal complaint and indictment.

Mark Bote Complaint

Mark Bote Indictment

More from our Schmuck of the Week archive: "Noe Coronado and Jose Esparza's schmucky idea: Selling cocaine from a vacuum bag."