Man Charged After Hurling Smoking Device Near Mar a Lago

A West Palm Beach man has been charged with several crimes after he hurled a smoking device near former-President Trump’s Mar a Lago hotel. Thirty-nine-year-old Paul Brantly Rawls, Jr. has been charged with making a destructive device, criminal mischief, and disorderly conduct. Both secret service agents who have been assigned to the former President’s hotel and West Palm Beach’s own bomb squad handled the call. Witnesses told police that the device was thrown from a car window. One vehicle attempted to swerve around the device and struck another vehicle causing a crash. No one was injured.

Mar a Lago security footage captured video of the vehicle from which the device was thrown. The license plate linked back to Rawls. Police questioned Rawls about an accident that had occurred, but Rawls told police he knew “the real reason” why they wanted to talk to him. Then he proceeded to tell them all about his homemade incendiary device, why he made it, and how angry he was that he didn’t receive his stimulus this weekend. Police found several smoke devices in Rawl’s vehicle.

What Did Rawls Do Wrong?

It’s not illegal to make your own smoke devices. In fact, they can be easily made with substances that are readily available. It is, however, a crime to deploy the homemade smoke device in an area where it is likely to spark suspicion, fear, and panic. It would be the equivalent of yelling “fire” in a crowded theater. While explosive bombs are illegal to make, this was not an explosive bomb. So the most serious charge of making a destructive device may be off the table.

Criminal mischief and disorderly conduct are both crimes that can be charged given the above-mentioned situation. The plaintiff caused an event that was very likely to cause panic. When one car attempted to swerve away from the device, it struck another car. Criminal mischief is a crime against property. It involves the destruction of property. Luckily for the defendant, no one was injured. Otherwise, the defendant could have been charged with negligent injury, homicide, or reckless endangerment.

So, yes, you can make your own smoke devices, but once you deploy them in an area that is heavily secured, you are committing a crime. Luckily for Rawls, he hasn’t been charged with terrorism, although under the terrorist statute, deploying such a bomb in a secured area would certainly meet the definition. The prosecution can add charges. If Rawls doesn’t accept a plea, the prosecution may threaten a terrorism prosecution. As a defense attorney, that would be your main worry, since Rawls did something intentional to cause fear and panic.

Talk to a West Palm Beach Criminal Defense Attorney

If you’ve retaliated against the government for its failure to send your stimulus check, call the West Palm Beach criminal attorneys at The Skier Law Firm, P.A. today to learn more about how we can help you negotiate a result you can live with.


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