March 07, 2013
Appeals court tosses conviction in SIUE threat case
By: Elizabeth Donald
An Illinois appeals court threw out the conviction of a former college student and aspiring rapper who prosecutors said threatened a Virginia Tech-like killing spree at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.
Olutosin O. Oduwole, 27, was convicted in 2011 of attempting to make a terrorist threat, after prosecutors argued a piece of paper found in his car in 2007 stated that a murderous rampage would occur if he wasn't paid $50,000. He was awaiting delivery of four legally-purchased handguns at the time, but the piece of paper included several lines about a girl as well as the demand for money.
The note, according to the charges, stated: "Send $2 to ... Paypal account if this account doesn't reach $50,000 in the next 7 days then a murderous rampage similar to the VT shooting will occur at another highly populated university. This is not a joke!"
Three months before the police found the note, a student at Virginia Tech gunned down 32 fellow students before killing himself.
An aspiring rapper, Oduwole insisted the writings were innocent lyrics and other musings. His attorneys could not be reached for comment on Thursday.
The 5th District Appellate Court in Mount Vernon on Wednesday ruled that the evidence did not prove Oduwole actively tried to convey any threat. In order to satisfy the statute, the court said Oduwole would have had to take a "substantial step" toward making the threat.
The paper was found jammed under the center console of his abandoned car and could not have been seen from outside the car, according to the testimony of the police officer who found it. The car was towed and its contents inventoried after it had been left parked in the same place for two days on the SIUE campus.
At the time, Oduwole was a student at SIUE and lived in an on-campus apartment. At trial, a friend testified that Oduwole got the idea for a rap song about Virginia Tech while watching an episode of the TV show "Law & Order."
A handgun that Oduwole purchased legally was found in his apartment. But he had not requested permission from SIUE police to bring a handgun on campus, and did not appeal his conviction on a misdemeanor charge of possession of a weapon in a public building.
Madison County State's Attorney Tom Gibbons said his office is reviewing the appellate court's decision. "After a thorough review, we will consider our options moving forward, including whether or not to ask the Illinois Supreme Court to review the case."
Oduwole's case was helped along by Jeffrey Urdangen, a law professor at Northwestern University who works with the Center for Criminal Defense, specializing in wrongful convictions and indigent defense. Urdangen joined with Oduwole's appeals attorney, Steve Art of Loevy & Loevy Law Firm in Chicago, to represent Oduwole during his appeal. Neither attorney could be reached for comment.
Oduwole originally had been sentenced to five years in prison, but could earn one day's credit off his sentence for each day of good behavior. After his case became national news, the Illinois state legislature changed the law to require that people convicted on a charge of attempting to make a terrorist threat must serve at least 85 percent of that sentence.
Oduwole was sentenced in December 2011 and began his sentence on Jan. 4, 2012. He asked the court in February 2012 to release him on bond while he awaited the outcome of his appeal. He was not successful, and still was incarcerated at Pittsfield Work Camp as of Thursday.
Without the appeal, his first projected date of parole was to be in February 2014.