Monday, April 23, 2007

THE WAINWRIGHT "THREATS"

updated--added 4-24-07

The story so far:

4-17-07

-Charles Yuri Wainwright logs into his MySpace page for the last time

4-18-07

-Charles Yuri Wainwright was arrested at a gas station in Lamar County

-Wainwright charged with "Posting of Messages through Electronic Media for Purpose of Causing Injury to Any Person" (Sec. 97-45-17 of the MS Code)

-Wainwright's home is searched and a number of guns found--also, his computer and other writings are seized

4-19-07

-Wainwright questioned by authorities


4-20-07

-Wainwright appears in Forrest County Justice Court and his bond is set at $1,000,000

-Wainwright is interviewed by the Hattiesburg American, calls the situation a "misunderstanding" and mentions 3 MySpace bulletins he posted

-Poster "Hcinms" joins Hattiesburg American forum and claims to be one of Wainwright's "potential targets"

-Poster "efevans" claims threats were made against 2 USM faculty members by name

-Poster "dorkface" joins the forum, says his wife worked with Wainwright and went to high school with him

4-21-07

-Dorkface posts the text of Wainwright's bulletins


4-23-07

-Hattiesburg American claims authorities are withholding from the paper the text of Wainwright's offending writings

-efevans claims that Wainwright's threats were not in the bulletins, but rather in MySpace emails

-I talk to sources involved with the USM press who confirm that UPD Chief Bob Hopkins is withholding the text of the threats from the press

4-24-07

-Student Printz publishes MySpace bulletins from forum, two columns questioning Wainwright's detention.

-In Student Printz story, Hopkins still refuses to comment on the nature of the "threat"


My take on all this

It is now approaching a week since Wainwright's arrest, and the offending statements that Wainwright supposedly wrote have not been made public. My suspicion is that Wainwright is being used to demonstrate that USM is on top of things in the wake of the Virginia Tech tragedy.
Certainly headlines such as these make it look as though UPD chief Bob Hopkins has everything under control at USM:

"Authorities Say USM Arrest Averted Tragedy" WLBT.com, 4-19-07
"USM police: Student was planning attack" WLBT.com, no date given

However, like many people who have read Wainwright's MySpace blogs, bio and bulletins, I don't think that he should have been thrown in jail and slapped with a million dollar bond. And that is my whole concern about this issue: did what he wrote warrant jail? But the authorities won't tell the public or the media what he wrote. This has a rather chilling effect on free speech, methinks, as evidenced by the reluctance of dorkface to post the bulletins.

There may in fact be some more Wainwright writings that we have not yet seen that do threaten bodily harm to specific people. But if that were the case, one would think the UPD would charge him under Sec. 97-45-15--that's the part of the Mississippi code that deals with cyber-stalking and threatening people with bodily harm, to wit:

"(1) It is unlawful for a person to:

(a) Use in electronic mail or electronic communication any words or language threatening to inflict bodily harm to any person or to that person's child, sibling, spouse or dependent, or physical injury to the property of any person, or for the purpose of extorting money or other things of value from any person."


The law he was charged with violating, Sec. 97-45-17, seems rather vague and inconsistent with what seems to be the thrust of the investigation and the innuendo surrounding it, i.e., he threatened professors, he had guns, he was planning an attack but we don't know when, etc. To commit an offense under Sec. 17, one would have to "post a message for the purpose of causing injury to any person." That's it--that's the long and short of it.

That statute seems like it could apply to almost any situation and does not have the caveat that 97-45-15 has, which is that political speech does not fall under its purview.

I can't say for sure that Wainwright didn't do anything wrong--he very well may have. And if he did, then it's good that action was taken. But each day that goes by without a revelation of what Wainwright wrote that got him thrown in jail creates more suspicion that Wainwright is being used as a stalking horse to make the university look tough on crime.

However, my feeling is that Wainwright is guilty of nothing more than bad, distasteful, juvenile, and purposely shocking writing. And maybe also dissatisfaction with his college courses. He may be "guilty" of being an atheist, or being off his meds, or owning a lot of guns. But I think if they really had something on him, we'd already know what it was.

But I could be wrong--we shall see.


3 comments:

Natalie said...

I agree, Lefty. When Columbine happened I was student teaching in Columbus at a rural junior high school. Within 2 days the admin. had taken in the "goth/emo" kids for questioning b/c they wore all black, trench coats, and were not "normal." Of course the local Columbus newspaper, The Commerical Dispatch, had a field day reporting that Lowndes Co. School District "intervened" in a possible copycat situation. It was medlam, let me tell ya. Incidents like this only fuels my dislike for the media.

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