William Poole is a Persecuted Writer

About a week ago, I posted on a story out of Clark County, Kentucky wherein William Poole, 18, had been arrested on terrorist charges. His grandparents, finding writings in his journal that they found disturbing, turned his work into police, who have accused him of trying to organize a gang to take over the school.

Seven news outlets posted the story above. Only one cited Poole’s defence that his writings were part of a short story featuring zombies.

The frustrating lack of detail on this story, and the fact that there were inconsistencies in Poole’s story (other evidence suggests that Poole’s writings don’t actually contain zombies), caused me to hold back on this story and hope for more facts to arise. Was this an actual plot, a harmless fantasy, or an actual work of fiction? Were the police on the ball, overzealously enforcing zero-tolerance, or butt-crazy morons? I wanted to know more, but the possibility that this was an attack on free speech weighed heavy on me:

William Poole is not Salmon Rushdie, and the Winchester Police are not the Ayatollah, but if the facts bear out on this case, they’re on the same ladder. It may be time to start writing letters to the Writers at Risk Program and possibly to Amnesty International.

Thanks to Allyn Gibson, I’ve learned that William Poole has had his first day in court. Portions of his journal has been read in court by the police, but the judge has refused to release it to the public because the journal allegedly refers to minors. And while there appears to be no mention of zombies, Allyn is led by the evidence of this unsympathetic article towards Poole to believe that the kid is being railroaded.

Let’s get one thing out of the way. “Detective Steve Caudill testified that neither teacher had any knowledge of what Poole had written and there was no mention of zombies in any of the writings.” No Shaun of the Dead fanfic to be found here. But if Poole’s writings weren’t part of a zombie story, then what did Poole write? I’ll excerpt several paragraphs:

In the overview to his writings, Poole wrote, “We will shut down all the other groups that come against us.” The only way to join the brotherhood, he wrote, “is doing something stupid.”

A separate story, titled “War” was described by Caudill as “futuristic,” and referred to a group of people sitting down at a kitchen table, where they plan a takeover of a school, determining how long it will take for police to arrive on the scene. “They will all die together,” Poole wrote.

Another excerpt, read by Caudill, states, “All the boys sit down at the kitchen table and start planning it out. They wrote down how many teachers, students and guards were at the high school. Also, how long it would take police to get there. They wrote down what was needed and how they was going to do it. They agreed right there they they would all die together.”

He continued, “They yelled, ‘kill them,’ and all the soldiers of Zone 2 started shooting. They are dropping every one of them. After five minutes, all the people are laying on the ground dead.”

Other documents, titled “Death of a Soldier” tells his family goodbye and list two separate dates for his death, Nov. 20, 2004, and Feb. 19, 2005. The latter date was three days before Poole was arrested.

When I read these five paragraphs, I get the sense that Poole’s writings were fiction. If Poole were planning a school takeover, why write the plan in a narrative format where it’s hardly useful? I see narrative here. Not good narrative, granted, but it’s still narrative. Zombies would have been a useful brightline to show the writings to be fictional, but the mere fact that Poole wrote a narrative should mark the writings clear enough as fiction, not a plan.

Allyn’s right. Isn’t it fascinating how, despite claiming that Poole’s work wasn’t fictional, the authorities keep on falling back on fictional terms to describing his writings? “A separate story, titled ‘War’”? Planning sessions described in the third person?

The writings also supposedly contain correspondence with other individuals towards setting up a gang, but the police don’t say what sort, and they don’t explain why this isn’t sufficient to charge the boy under conspiracy laws rather this half-baked claim that the writings themselves constitute the direct threat. Until I start to see evidence that real people were contacted by Mr. Poole, that there are e-mails and phone calls between these individuals, I’m going to get more and more suspicious that the authorities have gone off the deep end.

From the descriptions presented, what Mr. Poole has written is little different from the violent pseudo-Manga art and fiction that some of my fellow students engaged in during my high school career. The only thing that really separates Mr. Poole’s writing, so far, from my own tale of terrorists attacking America via Amtrak is subtlety and taste (and, now that I think of it, I wrote Story on a Train when I was 18).

The Student Press Law Center is following this matter closely, and I think this case bears close attention.

Further Reading

There have been more developments in this case. They’re covered in this blog post

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