Web site comments lead to arrest — (East Valley Tribune)

SSRI Ed note: Man on antidepressants, no history of violence, makes threats to a news website, is charged.

To view original article click here

East Valley Tribune

A Flagstaff man accused by federal authorities of sending a Virginia Tech-like threat to the Arizona Daily Sun’s Web site, will be jailed until after the Cinco de Mayo festivities targeted in the threat.

James Wesley Cheek, 55, was arrested Friday by FBI agents after he was accused of a felony charge of making threats via e-mail.

The editor of the newspaper contacted the FBI after receiving a story comment to be posted below a story on the newspaper’s Web site April 18. The comment threatening violence at the Cinco de Mayo festivities, where “Virginia might pale in comparison …” The message was never posted.

Agents tracked down the anonymous poster through the message’s Internet Protocol address. Even though the suspect is a Flagstaff resident, the message traveled across state lines to get to the newspaper’s server, making it a federal offense.

Cheek was in U.S. Magistrate Court in Flagstaff Monday to determine if he should be released from jail pending trial for the charge.

Cheek’s attorney, Mik Jordahl, found out through questioning Cheek’s spouse that he has never been violent. He has no criminal record except for a concealed weapon arrest that was dismissed. Cheek has injuries so severe that he is permanently on disability.

Cheek’s spouse also talked about how he tried to commit suicide twice and suffers from anxiety and depression ­ for which he takes medication because he can no longer support his family like he wants to.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Camille Bibles, questioning the lead investigator in the case, revealed a person who has a strong dislike for Hispanics. Cheek has begun to flirt with becoming a member of the Ku Klux Klan, even distributing fliers promoting the group. And he owns about a half-dozen guns including a 9 mm semi-automatic pistol.

The agent, in his testimony, was adamant about Cheek never intending violence. Cheek just wanted for the celebrations to be canceled.

U.S. Magistrate Mark Aspey, said he found himself in a “quandary” because he wanted more information about Cheek’s psychiatric status from medical records.

Jordahl suggested the hearing be postponed a week. That would give time for the judge to review the medical records, and it will see the Cinco de Mayo festivities come and go.

Conviction for the offense of making threats via e-mail carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and up to a $250,000 fine.

Reported by Arizona Daily Sun Assistant City Editor Larry Hendricks, 928-556-2262 or lhendricks@azdailysun.com.