Kent State student charged with threatening school on Twitter

Reuters News
Posted: Jul 30, 2012 5:04 PM
Kent State student charged with threatening school on Twitter

(Reuters) - A Kent State University sophomore accused of Tweeting a profanity-laced threat against the Ohio university and its president last week has been charged with inducing a panic and aggravated menacing, officials said on Monday.

William Koberna, 19, pleaded not guilty on Monday to aggravated menacing, a misdemeanor, in a brief hearing by video conference from the Portage County Jail, and a preliminary hearing was set for Friday on the felony charge of inducing panic, according to court records.

Judge Mark Fankhauser set bond on the charges at $50,000 and ordered that Koberna wear an electronic monitor and have no contact with Kent State President Lester Lefton or the campus if he posts 10 percent of the bond and is released.

Koberna is accused of posting on the public account of social networking site Twitter a threat on Wednesday "laced with profanity, mentioned Kent State University by name (and) also mentioned our president by name and concluded with the expression that he was going to shoot up the campus," said university spokesman Eric Mansfield.

A Kent State employee spotted the message on Friday and told university police, who contacted Twitter to determine the owner of the account, Mansfield said.

The account owner was identified as Koberna, who was living about 30 miles west of the campus in Brunswick, Ohio, with his parents for the summer break.

University police interviewed Koberna and people who knew him from campus on Saturday, Mansfield said. On Sunday morning, police and prosecutors determined that charges should be filed. He was taken into custody without incident later on Sunday.

Koberna, who was studying computer science in the university's school of the arts, also faces possible suspension or expulsion from the university, Mansfield said.

"It's very upsetting to the entire community to see a threat like this online in light of what has happened in Colorado, Virginia Tech, Northern Illinois and locally in Chardon, Ohio," Mansfield said.

Twelve people died in the mass-shooting incident in Aurora, Colorado last week. Another 58 were injured after a gunman opened fire in a crowded movie theater near Denver at a late night showing of the latest "Batman" movie.

Prosecutors formally charged former graduate student James Holmes, 24, with 24 counts of first-degree murder and 116 count of attempted murder for the Colorado rampage.

In February, a student opened fire in a cafeteria at a high school in Chardon, Ohio, east of Cleveland, killing three students and wounding three others.

In the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history, a mentally ill student killed 32 people at Virginia Tech in 2007. Nearly a year later, a former graduate student killed five students at Northern Illinois University before killing himself.

Kent State was the site of the killing of four protesters by Ohio National Guardsmen during a demonstration against the Vietnam War in 1970. The shooting galvanized nationwide protests against the war.

(Reporting by David Bailey; Editing by Greg McCune and Todd Eastham)