Actor charged with calling in false bomb threat on Connecticut bound train
NEW HAVEN — A former “Silicon Valley” actor has been charged by federal criminal complaint with intentionally conveying to law enforcement false information about an explosive device on a train traveling to Connecticut, according to a federal press release.
New York City resident Todd Joseph “T.J.” Miller, 36, known for playing Erlich Bachman on “Silicon Valley,” was arrested Monday night at LaGuardia Airport in Queens, N.Y., the release said. He appeared in court Tuesday and was released on a $100,000 bail, the release said.
Tracy Hayes, Miller’s public defender, declined to comment Tuesday beyond saying Miller entered a not guilty plea in U.S. District Court in New Haven. If convicted, Miller could spend up to five years in prison.
The criminal complaint alleges Miller called a 911 dispatcher March 18 in New Jersey and reported that he was on Amtrak Train 2256 traveling from Washington, D.C., toward Penn Station in New York City, and a female passenger, with brown hair and a scarf, “has a bomb in her bag.”
By the time Amtrak investigators received notice of the call and were mobilized to stop and search the train, the train was in Connecticut. Amtrak officials stopped Train 2256 at Green’s Farms Station in Westport, where passengers were directed to disembark, and bomb squad members boarded and searched the train. No evidence of any explosive device or materials was detected, the complaint stated.
An Amtrak investigator contacted Miller, who was in New York, by phone. On the call, Miller allegedly said the woman, who he described this time as having red hair and a red scarf, was carrying a “black bag carry on suitcase with a handle.” The complaint alleged Miller stated she kept checking her bag without taking anything out, kept asking the first class attendant what the next stop was and seemed to want to get off the train and leave her bag behind.
The officer allegedly detected slurring in Miller’s voice and asked whether he had consumed alcohol that day. Miller replied that he had consumed “one glass of red wine.” When asked whether he suffered from mental illness, Miller replied “No, absolutely not. This is the first time I’ve ever made a call like this before. I am worried for everyone on that train. Someone has to check that lady out.”
Investigators responding to the train determined that Miller actually had been traveling on Amtrak Train 2258, not 2256. When Amtrak Train 2258 arrived at Green’s Farms Station shortly thereafter, it was stopped, inspected, and eventually found not to contain any explosive devices or materials.
During the stop, Amtrak officers interviewed an attendant from the first class car where Miller had been sitting. The attendant said Miller appeared intoxicated upon boarding in Washington, consumed multiple drinks — two glasses of wine and two “double scotch and soda” drinks - on the train, and he had been removed in New York owing to his alleged intoxication.
While the first class car attendant said Miller and the woman, who matched Miller’s initial description, got into a screaming match, the woman denied having a loud argument with him. The attendant said there was least one row of seats between where Miller and the woman were sitting.
The complaint said officers detected the smell of alcohol on the woman and she stumbled while disembarking with her fellow passengers. The woman told officers Miller had been scolded a couple times by the train attendant for speaking too loudly. While Miller was speaking on his phone, the woman said she looked at him and he asked, “Hey, why are you looking at me?”
At some point, the woman was talking on her phone and said, “I think I’m going to jump off when we get off in New City and try to buy this thing.” The woman said Miller “sort of latched on to it, saying, ‘oh, she’s speaking, so why can’t I speak?’”
Investigators determined that woman was not carrying any explosives, was not checking a “carry on suitcase with a handle” and was not “checking her bag without taking anything out.” The complaint states the woman would have been largely out of Miller’s view unless he repeatedly stood up to observe her over or around the intervening seat row, or rows.
The complaint further alleges Miller, motivated by some perceived grudge against the woman, called 911 to relay false information about a suspected bomb on the train, and continued to convey false information to investigators while the public safety response was ongoing.
The complaint states four Amtrak trains were delayed due to Miller’s false explosive report, affecting 1,145 passengers.