Man arrested for allegedly using cell phone jammer on train

Technically Incorrect: A Chicago man allegedly just wanted a bit of peace and quiet. He is accused, though, of using illegal electronic means to achieve serenity.

Chris Matyszczyk
2 min read

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.


Dennis Nicholl is now in a bit of a jam.

CBS Chicago screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

Trying to persuade the world to see things your way isn't easy.

Humans let themselves be seduced by all kinds of behaviors.

You might not like it, but what can you truly do about it?

One man allegedly craved a little peace and quiet on Chicago's trains. Some passengers talk on their cell phones, while others just want to sit and think.

So, as CBS Chicago reports, 63-year-old Dennis Nicholl allegedly purchased a cell phone jammer and achieved his desired effect.

The only slight kink in such a plan is that it's illegal.

Chicago subway riders had been complaining for months about calls dropping. It's not as if they could blame, say, AT&T.

One day, however, blogger Keegan Goudie spotted Nicholl with his rather obvious gadget as he sat on a train. As bloggers tend to, he wrote about it.

And so it was that Nicholl appeared in court, charged with unlawful interference with a public utility. A 911 call reportedly alerted police to Nicholl's alleged behavior.

The Chicago Police Department didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

Nicholl's lawyer, Charles Lauer, told CBS that his client meant no harm. He merely wanted some peace.

"He might have been selfish in thinking about himself," Lauer told the Chicago Sun-Times.

Yes, he might have been.

Jammers can be relatively inexpensive to buy -- some cost as little as $30. But they can jam everything, including emergency calls.

When he appeared in court on Wednesday, it came to light that Nicholl, who's a CPA, had been caught in a similar incident in 2009.

Others have used jammers out of annoyance. Two years ago, the FCC fined a Florida man $48,000 for driving around with a jammer. Last year, A Florida science teacher was suspended for jamming his students' cell phones. In 2012, a Philadelphia man claimed he used a jammer on buses.

An Italian priest even resorted to using a phone jammer in church, after becoming frustrated with parishioners' rudeness.

You can't hold back the march of technology, people, however irritating and senseless it might seem to be.

If you do, you'll be marched off to court. Then it'll be you who's in a jam.