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No jail time for Red Line Jammer

Dennis Nicholl, dubbed the Red Line Jammer for blocking cellphone signals, will undergo counseling and likely avoid criminal penalties. | Chicago Police photo

Dennis Nicholl, the 63-year-old Rogers Park man charged with jamming cellphone signals so he could enjoy relative silence on his Red Line commute, will undergo counseling and likely avoid criminal penalties.

Nicholl, dubbed “The Red Line Jammer” by users of the Reddit website, on Thursday agreed to a deferred sentence on misdemeanor charges for using an illegal device to block cellphone signals on the L train. The deal will likely see prosecutors drop the misdemeanor count pending against Nicholl when he next appears in court in June, said his attorney, Charles Lauer.

Nicholl walked briskly out of the courthouse with another of his lawyers and did not answer questions from reporters.

“He’s scared out of his mind that this happened,” Lauer said outside the courthouse. “He’s turned in that (jamming) device. I don’t think we’re going to hear from Mr. Nicholl about this again.”

Photos of Nicholl using a tiny jamming device he’d illegally purchased from a Chinese manufacturer had been circulating on the Internet before CTA officials received a tip about Nicholl. The CTA, Chicago Police and Federal Communications Commission launched a joint sting operation in early March, and Nicholl was arrested after turning on the signal jammer as an undercover officer talked on his cellphone in Nicholl’s car on the Red Line.

Nicholl spent a night in jail awaiting a bail hearing after his arrest March 7 on a Red Line train. Nicholl initially faced a felony charge of interfering with a public utility, though that count was amended to the misdemeanor earlier this month.

Nicholl had previously been caught jamming signals on the L, Lauer said, though he faced no real penalty and far less media fanfare than during his recent arrest. The mild-mannered accountant, who just wanted some peace and quiet on the L, has since faced difficulties at work, Lauer said.

“He just wants to go and hide,” Lauer said.

“I think he knew it was illegal, not that it was a serious illegality. Like a traffic ticket.”

“Hopefully, he just doesn’t take the L if people bother him.”