From the class to court: The saga of Julio Pino


Who is Julio Pino?

Julio Pino is no stranger to the spotlight.

The long-controversial Kent State history professor calmly faced cameras in 2016 following news of an FBI investigation into potential ties between Pino and ISIS. Denying the allegations, Pino placed trust in the justice system and his belief that a “man’s destiny is in the hands of God.”

But Monday was different. Again the subject of soon-to-be national news, Pino’s only appearance that day was a brief one, telling KentWired reporters outside his home he wasn’t interested in commenting before quickly heading inside.

Earlier in the day, news broke that Pino was charged with lying to the FBI during the 2016 investigations. According to a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Pino falsely denied correspondences over Facebook with a man identified as “J.E,” who was arrested in January 2016 after threatening a judge over a child custody case.

The threats from J.E. didn’t stop with the judge, as J.E. wrote in a conversation with Pino in 2015 that he would “kill 100s of people if they take my rights as a father away!”

Pino responded, saying, “…  in military terms this is known as ‘the Parthian shot’.”

J.E. then replied, “hell, 10000’s! . . .  It’;s [sic] time for Men to act like men again. . . .  See the thing I’ve got on my side is God. That allows me certain rights.  One of those rights is to strike down evil with furious vengeance! . . . People don’t even know how crazy I am yet!  That’s because no ones ever tried to take my [relative]. They’re about to meet to (the) Monster they’ve created.”

Pino wrote back, “Devour them, (J.E.).”

Hours after the press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office emerged Monday, the university announced the suspension of Pino and barred him from all Kent State campuses.

Pino’s attorney, Warner Mendenhall, said a guilty plea is likely, possibly landing Pino several years in prison. Mendenhall also stated that Pino plans to retire from the university.

The decision would do what a handful of other high-profile controversies couldn’t: end Pino’s time at the university.


In 2007, Pino stepped into headlines for the first time after Mike Adams, a political columnist for, attempted to debunk the link Pino had to a Jihadist website called “Global War.” His department chair, John Jameson, outed him as having ties to the website, which led to controversy in the Kent State community. While some argued it was a freedom of speech issue, others worried he had ties to terrorist organizations.

But the headlines didn’t stop there.

Arguably, the most notable controversy was when Ishmael Khaldi, the first Bedouin diplomat in the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, spoke at Kent State in 2011. What was supposed to be a calm event about Middle Eastern politics turned downhill when Pino initiated a heated argument with Khaldi in the Kiva. After minutes of building frustration, Pino stormed out of the room yelling, “Death to Israel!”

Community members sat in shock as his words set in, while others reportedly were not surprised by his actions. Former Kent State president Lester Lefton released a statement supporting Pino’s freedom of speech, but called his actions “reprehensible and an embarrassment to our university.”

Despite the commotion, Pino maintained his teaching role.


All was quiet for a few years. That was until Pino sent a letter to the History News Network of George Washington University and blamed scholars for Palestinian deaths in 2014.

“I hold you directly responsible for the murder of over 1,400 Palestinian children, women and elderly civilians over the past month,” he wrote.

The History News Network published the letter on its site, drawing attention from publications like the Cleveland Plain Dealer and Akron Beacon Journal. Pino’s comments were met with backlash, but his tenure at Kent State protected him.

Former leaders of Kent State organization Students for Justice in Palestine sent KentWired a letter to the editor, denouncing Pino’s words in the letter.

“We equally condemn, in no uncertain terms, the misguided and hateful rhetoric used by many would-be ‘allies’ of the Palestinian people worldwide. Chief among these offenders is Dr. Julio Pino, whose high-profile ravings have caused massive setbacks in the desperately needed dialogue around the issues of human rights and social justice in the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This crisis will not be resolved by ideologues, hatemongers or jihadists.”

For the public relations headache Pino had become, the university had no grounds for firing the tenured professor.

A tenure contract doesn’t necessarily guarantee professors a permanent position at the university, but it makes it harder to justify removal by the administration.

To fire him, Pino’s bombastic behavior would have needed to take place inside the classroom.

It did not.

“Tenure protects what the professor does in the classroom, and tenure protects what the professor does in her or his research,” Provost Todd Diacon said in a 2014 interview with former Stater editor Emily Mills. “What (professors) do as a private citizen doesn’t really, unless they’re violating laws, it doesn’t really impact their condition of employment.”

So, as it had before, Pino’s professorship endured—but 2016 brought a deeper, more serious chapter to his saga.


Just two or three years back — before President Trump or gun policy grabbed headlines — debate raged over how to confront the growing legitimacy of terrorists overseas, particularly the Islamic State, or ISIS.

On Dec. 2, 2015, Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik killed 14 people and injured nearly twice as many in a shooting in San Bernardino, California. The attack was the deadliest since Sept. 11, 2001 in the U.S, according to CNN.

Public fear of terrorism, according to Gallup, reached its highest point since the early 21st century. 

That fear, at least briefly, manifested on Kent State’s campus in early 2016 just a month after the San Bernardino attacks, and Pino was at the heart of the concerns.

That January, an FBI agent appeared in the Kent State Student Media newsroom. Authorities interviewed Mills and others over alleged ties between Pino and ISIS.

The story went to stands, and it was picked up nationally.

Pino stood his ground and denied the allegations, stating he was unaware of the investigation.

“I’ve not broken the law,” he said in an interview with KentWired in 2016. “I don’t advocate that anyone else break the law, so I’ll stand by that statement that I fulfill my duties as an American citizen by speaking out on issues that some people find controversial, of course, but no, I have not violated any laws that I’m aware of or that anyone has informed me of.”

Still, Pino remained in the classroom.


A full two years later, Pino will stand before U.S. District Judge Patricia Gaughan Thursday morning in Cleveland for arraignment and a plea hearing in a case that stems from the 2016 investigations.

As he prepares to plead guilty, Pino will once again place his faith in the justice system he praised. Should the justice system not trust Pino, his lawyer estimates Pino might spend up to eight years in prison.

For those following Pino’s embattled tenure at Kent State, one question remains: What’s next?

Updated Thursday at 12:01 p.m.

Pino pleaded guilty in federal court Thursday to a charge of making false statements to law enforcement during the 2016 investigation. He will be sentenced Aug. 23. 

Updated Thursday at 3:44 p.m.

The university fired Pino following his guilty plea in court this morning. Eric Mansfield, executive director of media relations, released the following statement:

“Kent State University is moving forward in accordance with personnel policies in terminating the employment of Julio Pino. He remains suspended from the University, and is prohibited from coming on to any Kent State campus. A qualified instructor has taken over his classes so that his students can finish their studies on time and without interruption.”

Lydia Taylor is the editor. Contact her at [email protected].

Lucas Misera is the managing editor. Contact him at [email protected].