Hoax threat could cost Berkeley student

WALNUT CREEK, Calif. (MCT) – A UC Berkeley law student could be criminally charged after allegedly threatening students at UC Hastings law school following the Virginia Tech shootings.

The Boalt Hall connection came to light Thursday, a day after Hastings evacuated its students and employees because of a threat posted to an online message board. Operations resumed under heavy security Thursday.

Boalt Hall Dean Christopher Edley apologized to Hastings in a letter distributed to the San Francisco campus. Edley expressed his “deep regret and sympathy.”

“Coming on the heels of the tragedy at Virginia Tech,” Edley wrote, “the posting was in my judgment at the very best an astounding instance of immaturity, terrible judgment and reckless disregard for the welfare of others.”

FBI agents concluded that the Berkeley student was not a threat, but Edley said criminal charges are possible and that the school is consulting with mental-health professionals. The student’s name was not available, but officials at both schools said the person is a first-year student.

Hastings Dean Nell Jessup Newton said Hastings would increase police protection, both undercover and uniformed, through the school’s May 20 commencement ceremonies.

“We’re going into finals,” Newton said Friday. “Our students are still completely freaked out by this idiot.”

The Boalt student, who went by the online name Trustafarian, posted the message Wednesday on the site AutoAdmit.com, a popular bulletin board for college-related messages. The suspect wrote that he or she had planned a “Bloody Wednesday” at Hastings, but had decided against it because it was a sunny day.

AutoAdmit.com’s president, Jarret Cohen, wrote on the site that he had helped the FBI contact the suspect. He also defended the site’s free-for-all nature, which sometimes leads to offensive posts.

“Please understand that I run this place the way I do because I believe you deserve the chance to express yourselves openly and freely,” he said. “But please, don’t be stupid.”

A Boalt spokeswoman said the school would look into disciplinary measures after law-enforcement authorities had finished their investigation. She declined to say whether the student could be expelled.

“They’re just not ready to sit down and talk about that,” said the spokeswoman, Susan Gluss.

An FBI spokesman said he could not provide details about the suspect or investigation, but said the agency is taking the threat seriously.