Facebook threat targeted GJ police, preschool

Kenneth R. Wheeler



WHEELER_Kenneth_mug

Kenneth R. Wheeler

A man faces possible federal charges after posting to his Facebook page alleged death threats against Grand Junction Police Department officers, their children and urging a massacre at a preschool, according to court records.

Kenneth R. Wheeler, 31, 445 Chipeta Ave., No. 28, was ordered held without bond Wednesday at the Mesa County Jail after his initial court appearance at the Wayne N. Aspinall federal building. Wheeler was advised by U.S. Magistrate Gudrun Rice of a possible maximum five years in federal prison, a fine of $250,000, or both, if convicted of a single count of making interstate or foreign threatening communications.

Stephen Laiche, a court-appointed attorney representing Wheeler, said Wednesday the allegations are untrue, and he declined further comment.

Wheeler was arrested Tuesday by federal agents, four days after Grand Junction police approached the U.S. Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement about threats on Wheeler’s Facebook page, according to an arrest warrant. A tipster phoned police after viewing the postings, the warrant said.

The rambling, often nonsensical post on March 12 starts with, “STARDRAGON celestial override contingency ...,” the warrant said. Named, however, are Grand Junction police officers Adam Winch, Tim Janda and Mark Brown, while the post urges readers to take aim at “rapists, pedophiles and cops.”

” … kill them all. Hang em upside down set their face on fire and saw them in half,” the post reads.

Earlier in the post, Wheeler allegedly wrote, “… the americans cant punish me for what i say here in rome, italy, on facebook,” the warrant said.

The warrant said Wheeler left the United States on March 9, flying from Denver to Toronto, Canada. He was scheduled to return Tuesday.

Facebook security personnel provided to federal authorities information about Wheeler’s latest account sessions, showing IP computer addresses in Rome, Italy, according to the warrant.

Federal agents arrested Wheeler after meeting his plane Tuesday at Grand Junction Regional Airport.

Police spokeswoman Kate Porras said the Police Department notified the officers named in Wheeler’s post and took unspecified steps toward protecting their safety. The department, Porras said, also notified Stepping Stones Children’s Center, 715 N. Seventh St., which allegedly was threatened by Wheeler.

Wheeler urged readers to target the building, “if my dui charges are not dropped,” the warrant said.

“... just walk in and kill everybody. phug it. they want to play games lets play the game of life, where winners live and losers die,” the post reads.

Prior arrests

Court records show Wheeler pleaded not guilty and is awaiting trial in connection with a May 5, 2011, drunken-driving arrest following a traffic stop by Grand Junction police. Unresolved in the case is a motion to suppress evidence as Wheeler claimed he was questioned illegally by officers after the stop.

According to records, officers Winch and Janda were endorsed as witnesses in a 2009 arrest of Wheeler in which Wheeler was charged with misdemeanor possession of less than an ounce of marijuana and drug paraphernalia. He was convicted on both counts and sentenced October 2009 to complete 24 hours of community service, according to Colorado Bureau of Investigation records.

Jailed in Mesa County in November 2009, Wheeler asked officials to be sent to the Colorado Mental Health Institute in Pueblo for an evaluation, sending a hand-written letter to County Court Judge Bruce Raaum.

“This court cannot order a mental health evaluation,” Raaum replied.

CBI records show Wheeler was arrested seven times in Colorado dating back to 1999, including convictions in April 2005 on charges of felony use of a stun gun, assault and false imprisonment. Wheeler was sentenced to two years in state prison.



COMMENTS

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It’s always a difficult situation when an apparently unlikeable person is pitted against the 1st Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of speech. When in doubt, it’s wise to check the instruction manual. In this case, it means reading U.S. Supreme Court decisions such as Brandenburg v. Ohio, 395 U.S. 444 (1969) [http://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/395/444/case.html], Yates v. United States, 354 U.S. 298 (1957) [http://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/354/298/case.html] which make it crystal clear that calling for the violent overthrow of the government AS AN ABSTRACT PRINCIPLE is protected speech. Furthermore, Hess v. Indiana, 414 U.S. 105 (1973) [http://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/414/105/case.html] makes it clear that urging others to commit violent acts “at some indefinite future time” is not actionable speech.  The whole idea of the 1st Amendment is to be able to say “King George and his soldiers are tyrannical scum who need to be killed!” without being persecuted for it by the government. In the recent case of United States of America vs. Walter Edward Bagdasarian, No. 09-50529, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals gave an comprehensive constitutional lesson on why Bagdasarian’s alleged threat against President Obama was not speech falling outside of 1st Amendment protection. I would wholeheartedly recommend any potential jury member read these cases along with the cases cited in them.
It was worthy of note that Wheeler’s defense attorney, Stephen Laiche, said the allegations are untrue.
It was also worthy of note that in most cases where the information on the warrant would harm the government’s case it is sealed. In this case, there was material that could help convict the accused in the minds of the public, so it was conveniently not sealed. Probably just coincidence.
In the words of the 9th CCApp, “But as we have explained, incitement to kill or injure a presidential candidate does not qualify as an offense under [18 U.S.C.] §879(a)(3).”
If the story was not strategically written to help demonize the accused with the public and make it easier to obtain a conviction, it would have been nice if it could have contained a bit more information. Nothing in the story, as written, indicates to me a reasonable cause to believe that any unprotected speech occurred. Therefore, I am inclined to think the accused person’s attorney is most likely correct. As a libertarian-leaning person, especially in these times of systemic government corruption, including a quadrillion dollars of criminally fraudulent derivatives, I vigorously oppose any undermining or narrowing of the 1st Amendment free-speech rights of the individual citizen. I urge any who disagree to read the above cases before forming an opinion.

I thought one more brief comment/question on the symbiotic relationship between the police, prosecutors and the MSM — which is often used in an attempt to influence public opinion and help obtain convictions in the media prior to evidence actually being introduced in court via constitutionally valid procedural due process and an intellectually honest presumption of innocence — would be appropriate. Is there a person alive who is so ignorant and naive as to believe that the photograph of the accused person selected to be published with the story is a “neutral and unbiased” picture? It has every appearance of trying to demonize the accused and make the reader dislike him merely for his repulsive “smart aleck” demeanor in the picture. How are potential jury members who are Sentinel readers supposed to accord a presumption of innocence to such a sinister-looking creature? Surely the official police mug shot would have been less prejudicial. Somebody on the Sentinel editorial staff should have called “B.S.!” on that picture. They didn’t. So I will. (And the MSM wonders why it is losing circulation while the alternative media is growing.)

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