SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Tom Larson, Acting United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced that an Arkansas man was sentenced in federal court Wednesday for making bomb threats to the Cedar County Courthouse in an effort to cancel his own court hearing that he feared would send him to jail.
Phillip Ray Robison, Jr., 36, of Hartford, Ark., was sentenced by U.S. District Judge M. Douglas Harpool to two years and six months in federal prison without parole. The court ordered this federal sentence to be served consecutively to Robison’s sentence in a Cedar County, Mo., case.
On May 25, 2017, Robison pleaded guilty to one count of maliciously conveying false information related to explosive materials. Robison admitted that he made three separate bomb threats on two occasions in January 2016, each of which caused the evacuation of the Cedar County Courthouse in Stockton, Mo.
Robison called the court clerk for the Cedar County Courthouse on Jan. 11, 2016. He stated, “You better tell Judge Bickel to clear the courthouse cuz a bomb is going off at 2:30.” Law enforcement cleared everyone and searched the courthouse for the presence of an explosive or bomb. Law enforcement did not locate an explosive device in the courthouse, the building was reopened to the public, and the court docket was resumed.
Robison then called the clerk’s office a second time and said, “you screwed up,” indicating that law enforcement had missed the bomb during their original search. Once again the courthouse was closed and another search was conducted. Law enforcement again failed to find an explosive device during this second search. Due to the late hour, the remainder of the court docket was cancelled and rescheduled for a later date.
On the day of the bomb threat, a court bailiff observed Robison at the courthouse. The bailiff thought that Robison seemed nervous. He had been scheduled to appear in Judge Bickel’s court for a probation violation hearing following his prior conviction for distribution of illegal narcotics. Robison was concerned that he was going to be sent to the Missouri Department of Corrections for a 120-day sentence.
On Jan. 25, 2016, Robison called another bomb threat into the Cedar County Courthouse. The court was cleared and searched by law enforcement officers. No explosive device was located. When the court reopened to the public, Robison was first in line. Deputies who were aware of the circumstances of the first bomb threat recognized Robison.
Deputies asked Robison to step out of line to speak with them. He agreed to be interviewed and was taken to the sheriff’s office. Robison admitted that he had made both of the January 2016 bomb threats because he wanted his court hearing to be cancelled. Robison believed that if his hearing was held, the court would return him to jail, and he wanted to avoid that. Robison also told deputies that there were never any bombs.
According to court documents, Robison also had been scheduled to be in court on Dec. 14, 2015, but his hearing was postponed because he had a medical emergency and was transported to the hospital by ambulance. On that day, Robison’s vital signs were normal, but he advised medical personnel that he wanted to be transported to the hospital.
This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Patrick Carney. It was investigated by the Cedar County Sheriff’s Department and the FBI.