Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Appeals Court Reverses Conviction Over Threatening Poem Sent to Professor

The Chronicle of Higher Education
September 17th, 2014

A federal appeals court has tossed out the conviction of a former Utah Valley University student who was found guilty of a felony for sending a professor an email containing a violent anti-immigrant poem, according to reports by the Associated Press and The Salt Lake Tribune.
The poem, sent from the email username “siegheil_neocon” to a professor at the University of Utah, contained such phrases as “we will … detain you and slay you, by a bowie knife shoved up into the skull” and “we put the noose ring around your neck and drag you as you choke and gasp.” The professor forwarded a copy of the poem and other emails to the University of Utah police, who traced its origin to a computer lab at Utah Valley University and eventually to the former student, Aaron Michael Heineman.
Mr. Heineman, who is now 35, was born deaf and has received a diagnosis of Asperger’s disorder. He argued in court documents filed before his trial that the government should be required to prove that he had intended the communication to be received as a threat. He also asserted that his disorder impaired his ability to understand how others would understand things he said. The trial-court judge rejected those arguments, and Mr. Heineman was convicted of one count of sending an interstate threat.

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