Many, many thanks to Zero Intelligence for bringing me this bit of news. William Poole, initially arrested for “terroristic threatening”, has had all charges against him dropped, although he remains on probation.
Poole vaulted to Internet fame (or infamy) back in March when it was reported that the authorities had arrested him because of a set of writings that he claimed was a story about zombies. The zombie connection turned out to be a falsehood, which damaged Poole’s credibility, but it remained unclear whether his writings, which described an attack on a high school in the third person, were really a credible threat, or merely the harmless writings of an angry young man.
By July, the charges against Poole were reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor, with the slightly ludicrous title of “attempt to commit terroristic threatening”. Finally, on October 4, even these charges were dropped.
On August 2, Clark County District Court Judge Brandy Oliver Brown dismissed all criminal charges against Poole and released him on two years of restrictive probation.
Brown agreed with Poole’s attorney, Brian Barker, who claimed the grand jury’s indictment failed to state a criminal offense. Barker argued criminal attempt would require an overt act on Poole’s part, something he says prosecutors failed to demonstrate.
Even Assistant County Attorney John Keeton was forced to concede the point. He told Brown there is no documented record of a conviction anywhere in Kentucky on a charge of attempt to commit terroristic threatening.
Simply put, there is no such crime as attempting to commit terroristic threatening.
But all is not well. Poole remains under probation for the next two years, despite the fact that the court found that he had committed no real crime connected to the charges he was brought in on. As Zero Intelligence describes it:
Brown normally does not grant shock probation but did so in this case to maintain control over Poole. If he had served the last two months of his contempt of court sentence he would have been free and clear. By allowing him to get out of jail early, Brown can set restrictions on his freedom for another two years.
The contempt of court sentence stems from a silly mistake made by Poole when he found himself within sight of his old school, despite his bail restrictions (he was in a friend’s car who was there to pick up another friend from the school).
There is some indication that Poole could use some attention. He is estranged from his grandparents and seems to be a troubled youth. But even if this is the case, keeping Poole under probation using a technicality of the law doesn’t strikes me as the best way to do this. Indeed, the whole thing strikes me as an arbitrary use of the law to keep Poole under the authorities’ thumb, even though the authorities clearly overreacted to the threat that Poole represented. Again, Zero Intelligence says it best:
No crime was committed. Poole was on parole against charges that did not legally exist. He violated the terms of that parole and received criminal punishment for doing so. Now he is being monitored by a judge for two years for the crime of disobeying a judge while falsely accused by the state. Note that he did not commit any crime when he was originally out on parole, he just didn’t do what the judge told him to do.
This whole incident continues to represent a big black eye on the American legal system and its commitment to freedom of speech in the United States.
The details of this sad story can be found by checking out the archives below.
Erin says that the two-year probation on the contempt of court charges might be a good thing for William Poole, as it allows the law to ensure that Poole gets the attention he needs to channel his anger more constructively. He does sound like a troubled young lad who could use the help, and often the services for such people aren’t available until these individuals actually do something violent, at which point it’s too late. She has a good point, and it’s more than likely that, after two years, Poole will be able to slip into a quietly productive adult life, just like the rest of us.
Still, this whole case leaves a bad taste in my mouth. From what I’ve seen, this young man has been put through six months of hell because of something he wrote in a personal journal. I remember how hard high school was and we all remember how angry some of us were. In this day and age where authorities overreact for fear of another Columbine, how many other William Pooles will we forge?