2012-09-27 / Local & State

Pa. Court Officials Upset By Jury Duty Prank calls

By Joe Mandak


PITTSBURGH (AP) – What's worse than getting picked for jury duty? How about getting a prank phone call threatening a $500 fine or 30 days in jail for missing a jury summons you never even received.

The Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts on Thursday sent out an alert to citizens and officials who oversee county courts to advise them of the prank.

Peter Morin, a court administrator in Mercer County, said his office has been getting calls from people who haven't listened to the entire call, which includes a message near the end that says, “Rather than a $500 fine or a 30-day prison sentence you may instead choose to pay it forward and simply pass this phone number onto your top 10 most gullible friends.”

“It's someone's idea of a joke,” Morin told The Associated Press. “I don't think it's particularly funny.”

But the folks who run the online gag website www.humorhotlines.com apparently do.

The jury duty prank originates from the site, which also offers prank calls that friends can be referred to for “Drunk Dating Advice,” a fake “Friend Request Hotline” and, just in time for November, a “ Presidential Polling Prank.”

Jeff Goldblatt, the founder and creative director of RH Brands LLC, the Atlanta firm that runs the website, told the AP the prank number is for entertainment only and that its popularity is, apparently, what's causing all the problems.

Goldblatt said the phone number has “gone viral” and drawn 2.8 million calls in recent months.

“A fraction of 1 percent of callers don't get the joke and that is, unfortunately, what has led to all this media coverage,” Goldblatt wrote in an email. “Our intent is certainly not to upset anyone or cause any problems for the courthouse officials, administrators, etc.”

AOPC spokesman Art Heinz said people who hear of the website are apparently referring their friends to the phone number, or texting them with it, to trick them into thinking they've missed a jury summons.

Zygmont Pines, the Court Administrator of Pennsylvania, issued a statewide alert asking court officials who hear of the call – or unsuspecting citizens who receive it – to not pass it on to their friends.

“This prank is causing confusion and anxiety and has resulted in disruptions and undue work for court employees, which translates to a waste of tax dollars,” Pines said. “Please don't forward these messages if you receive one.”

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