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Hoax sparks bill to toughen false reporting penalties
Gainesville 'catchmekiller' case leads senator to propose new law
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In 2009, Hall County and state authorities spent hundreds of hours and countless taxpayer dollars to track down the "catchmekiller" who claimed to have murdered several people.

After the massive search, though, authorities discovered it was all a hoax.

That incident sparked a response by state Sen. Butch Miller, R-Gainesville. He sponsored a bill that passed the Senate on Thursday that would create stiffer penalties for reporting false claims to law enforcement that result in loss of time and money to agencies.

"As a result of this claim, law enforcement officials in Hall County were required to expand their time and limited resources to investigate these reports when they should have been focusing their efforts on legitimate cases which could potentially comprise public safety," Miller said.

The 2009 case that sparked the legislation involved Andrew Scott Haley of Gainesville. He was convicted of the crime last May after posting a video on YouTube calling himself the "catchmekiller" and falsely claimed he had killed 16 people.

Haley's actions "prompted an extensive investigation to determine whether or not his claims were true, at great cost to the taxpayers," Hall County District Attorney Lee Darragh said following the conviction.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation spent hundreds of hours tracking down "catchmekiller" before finding Haley in Gainesville.

Reporting a false crime already was considered a crime as it is in most states. Thursday's legislation would enact more punishment against people found guilty of providing false testimony.

The crime would be considered a misdemeanor and could carry a sentence of up to 12 months in jail and a possible fine of up to $1,000.

The bill would include people found guilty of reporting a false claim involving admitting to a serious violent felony or if the false report is intended to cause law enforcement to initiate an investigation to determine whether the crime has been committed by that person.

The bill, which was unanimously passed by the Senate, must still be passed by the House of Representatives and signed by Gov. Nathan Deal before it can become law.

"We're still early in the process, but whether it's this piece of legislation or a similar piece of legislation it's good to have some safeguards against activities like this," Miller said.

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