- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 10, 2016

A financial analyst in Chicago is accused of using an illegal device to keep fellow train passengers from talking on their cellphones during his commute to and from work.

Dennis Nicholl, 63, a certified public accountant employed by the University of Illinois, was arrested Tuesday morning after an undercover officer caught him with the device while riding a Chicago Transit Authority train.

Local and federal authorities had been running an undercover investigation since late last year, when riders began complaining of mysterious lapses in cellphone service while commuting along the Red Line. A photo of a man gripping a jamming device equipped with multiple antennas was widely shared over social media in October, prompting the investigation.

An undercover officer spotted Mr. Nicholl boarding a Red Line car Tuesday and followed him. The officer then took out his cellphone and attempted a conversation before his signal abruptly dropped.

Mr. Nicholl was arrested soon after and was released Wednesday from Cook County Jail after posting bond. He is charged with unlawful interference with a public utility, a felony.



In the arrest report, police wrote that Mr. Nicholl told investigators he had been using the jamming device because “he gets annoyed at people talking on their cellphones while riding on the CTA,” the Chicago Tribune reported.

“He had no malicious intent to really hurt anybody,” Mr. Nicholl’s attorney, Charles Lauer, told reporters after a court hearing Wednesday. “He’s disturbed by people talking around him.”

Mr. Nicholl pleaded guilty in 2009 to a misdemeanor charge of jamming cell calls, and as a result had his equipment confiscated and destroyed.

The FCC has issued citations in the past to people caught selling the devices, but a CTA spokeswoman told the Tribune that Mr. Nicholl’s arrest appears to be the first case related to such an incident on mass transit.

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