Thursday, June 28, 2007

WAINWRIGHT: THE LAW IS ABOUT TO SPEAK!

The Hattiesburg American tells us that "Details of USM student's arrest may be divulged." They changed their headline from earlier in the day, which read "Police may divulge details of arrest."

Bob Hopkins, the chief of University police, has always held his tongue about what Wainwright wrote that was so "threatening." Now it looks like it's time to put up or shut up--the stuff is coming back from the crime lab. Here's the heart of the story:

In the two months since Wainwright was arrested, investigators haven't released details about the threats, allegedly made through www.MySpace.com, a popular networking site that allows users to communicate through e-mail, blog posts, instant messages and bulletins.

Nor has Weathers' office received a case file from investigators.

"The person that's working it is off this week, but I was assured I would have it Monday or Tuesday," he said.

Southern Miss Police Chief Bob Hopkins said last month that his office was awaiting results of forensic testing from the state crime lab before turning the case over to Weathers' office.


Of course, the "student" is Yuri Wainwright, currently being held in Lamar County jail on $1 million bond for "posting threats over the Internet." I noticed that this and most other Wainwright-related stories say that what he's charged with carries a sentence of between 5-20 years. I don't know where they're getting that sentence from. Here is what I wrote about the situation on the ol' forum today...

Post 1

According to the MS Code, "Posting of messages through electronic media for purpose of causing injury to any person," the vague statute Wainwright was charged with violating, doesn't carry a sentence of 5-20 years. Here is a quote from the code:

"A person who violates this section, upon conviction, shall be guilty of a felony punishable by imprisonment for not more than five (5) years or a fine of not more than Ten Thousand Dollars ($10,000.00), or both."


So he may have already served his time. We know from the UPD website what statute he was charged with, but that entry has rotated out of the entries on the UPD crimelog website. Also, a Hattiesburg American story about Wainwright that was at this link
has now disappeared.

They've got 7 months now to bring a case against Wainwright. If Yuri did do what they say he did, then it's good they caught him before he did anything to anyone.

However, Bob Hopkins has repeatedly maintained that the messages that got Wainwright in trouble were written and posted before the Virginia Tech shootings. He's never said how long before the VT shootings these were posted. We do know that they waited until two days after VT and two days before the Columbine anniversary to arrest Wainwright.

The VT massacre happened on Monday, April 16. Yuri logged into his MySpace page for the last time on April 17. So there were two days between VT and Yuri's arrest--theoretically two days in which Wainwright could have carried out his theoretical threats. Glad they acted fast!

I can't wait to read what Wainwright supposedly wrote. We should have known a long time before now what he said that was so bad that he's been held for over two months on $1 million bond.

Again, if he really did make specific threats, then I'm glad they got him. If he didn't--and I suspect that this is the case--they've really done our justice system a disservice.

Post 2

I'm not sure where the possible sentence of 5-20 years for posting threats on the Internet is coming from. It's mentioned in many articles about the Wainwright case, including this most recent one.

Neither the law I mentioned above or the "cyberstalking" statute--97-45-15 of the MS Code--have a penalty of up to 20 years. In fact, all the sentences are 5 years or less. Perhaps there's a change in the law that has happened very recently and the websites have not yet been changed to reflect it.

When one Googles "internet threats mississippi code," one is taken here.

When one goes to the "Chapter Index" at the bottom of the page, one finds a list of all the sections of chapter 045 of title 97:

A quick look through them reveals that none of them mentions a possible penalty of over five years.

The only statute that even mentions "threatening" is 97-45-15, which is not what Wainwright was charged with. In the definitions (97-45-1), "Credible threat" is defined thusly:

"a threat made with the intent and the apparent ability to carry out the threat so as to cause the person who is the target of the threat to reasonably fear for his or her safety."


What they have to prove

Which means that they'll have to prove Wainwright's intent, which is not easy to do, especially given the cryptic, disjointed nature of the writing of his I've seen. The "apparent ability to carry out the threat" is obviously easy to prove, which is why they keep bringing up the guns found at the place Wainwright was living.

And I guess that the target of the supposed threat could be proven to have feared for his or her safety since Wainwright was obviously turned in by somebody. Actually, though, the process by which Wainwright's "threats" were discovered has not been discussed much in the press.

We are told that "university police were notified by a faculty member that Wainwright had posted disturbing messages and emails on the popular website."

We don't know if the professor that turned him in was the target or if someone else was. It's entirely conceivable that the target of the "threat" was completely unaware of a "threat" and therefore could not have feared for his/her safety.

2 comments:

Freshmao said...

Hey Clinton,

This is Mark O'Neil. I just finished serving grand jury duty in Pearl River country just over 6 months ago and I can tell you from my experience that a possible reason for the multiple years can be due to multiple counts of the same charge, such as 4 counts of up to 5 years is 20 years. Hope this helps.

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