Original article no longer available
By NANCY KAFFERA
Apr 23, 2007
Suspect: Threat charge a mix-up
University of Southern Mississippi student arrested for posting threats on the Internet said he believes the charges result from what he calls a “misunderstanding.”
Yuri Wainwright, 25, remained in jail Friday night after Judge Pat Causey set bail at $1 million.
Wainwright was arrested by the Lamar County Sheriff’s office in conjunction with the University of Southern Mississippi police at a Lamar County gas station around noon Wednesday.
The threats, investigators say, were made primarily through the popular networking site www.MySpace.com, which allows users to communicate through pictures, e-mails, blogs, instant messages and bulletins.
Southern Miss Police Chief Bob Hopkins refused to give details about the nature of the alleged threats Friday, saying only that he and other investigators believed the threats were credible and that Wainwright had the ability to carry them out.
Campus police were told of the threats by a faculty member, the chief said.
Hopkins said investigators found several weapons, including a rifle, shotguns and a handgun during a search of the Purvis home where Wainwright lives with his grandmother.
Assistant District Attorney DeCarlo Hood asked Causey to hold Wainwright indefinitely, or to set bail at $1 million.
A preliminary hearing date for Wainwright hasn’t been set. He doesn’t have an attorney, but told Causey that he didn’t need a public defender.
Wainwright said Friday in an interview from the Forrest County Jail that the charges were a misunderstanding, prompted by paranoia following this week’s deadly shootings at Virginia Tech, where a troubled student fatally shot 32 people before committing suicide.
“After the Virginia Tech incident I posted three bulletins (to MySpace). One was referring to if you want to judge the shooting at Virginia Tech, everything you say can be turned around on you by the U.S. government -look at what happened at Kent State (University),” he said, referring to the 1970 fatal shootings of four student activists by members of the Ohio National Guard.
The other bulletins, he said, quoted Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, the teens who killed 12 students at Columbine High School in 1999.
Wainwright, who said he takes anti-depressants, said he was trying to prompt friends to think differently about current events.
“I didn’t know that could get you five years in prison,” he said.
Wainwright’s MySpace blog is filled with rants, short stories and more traditional journal entries, but no specific threats were publicly available on the page – though another user’s comment, apparently in response to a request from Wainwright, explained how to create a homemade silencer.
Numerous comments from friends express shock and disbelief at the events of the week, many maintaining Wainwright’s innocence.
Hopkins said Friday he’s not surprised Wainwright denied making threats.
“I’d say he’s in jail, and historically people who are there will sometimes say anything,” the chief said. “I stand by what I said, that we had probable cause to issue a search warrant, and that what we seized at his residence is indicative of that he could have been capable of carrying out threats we believe he made.”
Wainwright didn’t deny having weapons, but said his gun ownership doesn’t violate the law.
“I do have weapons, but I wouldn’t say I’m harmful,” he said.
Wainwright, whose MySpace page says he is a writer, said he’s not afraid.
“The worst they can do is send me to prison,” he said. “I’m not really afraid of prison. Voltaire, (Fyodor) Dostoevsky, (the Marquis) de Sade and other great writers have all gone to prison. I’m more worried for the sake of my mother and grandmother.”
Hattiesburg bail bondsman Mike Morrision said he couldn’t comment on Wainwright’s situation, but said that many local bondsmen might hesitate to provide a $1 million bail.
Two types of bond are permissible in Mississippi, Morrison said, a personal surety bond in which the bail bondsman’s cash deposited with the state would be forfeited in the event the accused fails to appear in court, and a type of bond underwritten by an insurance company that would cover the debt in the event of forfeiture.
For that type of bond, he said, insurance companies typically require collateral matching the amount of the bond.