Joshua D. Usher left his backpack near the Target store at Mohawk Commons two weeks ago, then went inside to go shopping.
Soon, he was one of those being evacuated as police responded to reports of a suspicious bag outside the store the evening of June 3, authorities said.
He claimed the bag as his and soon found himself charged by Niskayuna police with a felony — first-degree placing a false bomb or hazardous substance. He was arraigned and ordered held on $11,000 bail, which he could not meet.
On Wednesday evening, Usher, 21, address unavailable, was expected to be released and the charges dropped, according to Schenectady County District Attorney Robert Carney. Prosecutor Michael DeMatteo was expected to formally request the case be dropped in Niskayuna Town Court.
Carney said his office reviewed the file after police lodged the charge, then spoke with the Niskayuna detective and concluded Wednesday that the facts of the case did not fit the charge. Carney said someone leaving a bag might cause alarm and prompt a police response, but in the Niskayuna case, there was insufficient evidence to meet the elements of the charge filed.
Usher told police he did not want to bring the bag into the store with him and left it outside. Because it contained only personal items, and there were no allegations of any other act that would have made people believe the bag was anything other than a bag, Carney said the case did not meet the requirements of the statute.
The statute requires that someone place something that “by its design, construction, content or characteristics” appears to be a bomb or explosive device but is not a device. The statute also requires that the person leaving it “knows, intends or reasonably believes (it) will appear to be” a bomb or explosive device.
Paperwork filed in court described it as “a small black bag.” It also described Usher as patting the bag and walking away. Employees at the Famous Footwear then became worried, the complaint reads. But Carney said there was nothing about the backpack or Usher’s actions that would have made it appear to be a bomb.
Usher was represented by attorney Joseph Litz, who could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
The final conclusion mirrors one from downtown Schenectady a year earlier, when a man left a bag and a Quran in the post office lobby on Jay Street, prompting a visit by the state police bomb squad. There was nothing suspicious in the bag. Schenectady police detectives interviewed its owner, determined he hadn’t meant to scare anybody and did not arrest him.