Should a university student be imprisoned for a piece of paper that appears to threaten a "murderous rampage similar to the [Virginia Tech] shooting?"
That question, it seems, will continue to be debated in court, with news this week that the Illinois Attorney General is appealing the overturned conviction of Olutosin Oduwole, the former Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville student who, for years now, has fought against accusations that he attempted to make "terrorist threats."
"Terrorism is inconsistent with civilized society and cannot be tolerated," the petition, full document on view below, says, citing a post-9/11 anti-terrorism act.
Does the state have a strong enough case to send Oduwole back to prison?
As we've reported, Oduwole, now 27, who was charged in 2007 and convicted in 2011, won a major victory this year when an appeals court overturned the guilty decision, citing insufficient evidence in the case against him.
Soon after, Madison County State's Attorney Tom Gibbons requested an appeal, arguing that law enforcement officials were able to thwart a major mass shooting and Oduwole needs to face consequences for his attempts to make a terrorist threat.
The case centers on a note found in Oduwole's impounded car that referenced a PayPal account, saying:
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!
Studying at the campus just northeast of St. Louis, Oduwole was already under investigation at the time.
His attorneys argue that the piece of paper was private and was just a draft of a rap song he was writing.
The appeal petition of Attorney General Lisa Madigan's office, filed yesterday, says:
This Court's review is warranted because of the importance of the question presented. In crafting the Terrorism Act, our legislature found 'the devastating consequences of the barbaric attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001 underscore the compelling need for legislation that is specifically designed to combat the evils of terrorism. Terrorism is inconsistent with civilized society and cannot be tolerated.'
Continue for more details on the case against Oduwole and the full petition.
The petition also argues that the appellate court overstepped its function by "improperly reweighing the evidence presented to the jury," -- which had originally found him guilty.
In a news release yesterday announcing the petition, the office of the state's attorney notes that police had found a .25 caliber handgun in Oduwole's campus apartment and that he had ordered three identical .380 semi-automatic handguns along with a .45 caliber semi-automatic firearm, which he was expecting in the mail at the time of his arrest.
Prosecutors have pointed as well to a short video he had created that allegedly had even more explicit threatening language .
"We presented a case that showed that the actions of this defendant represented a threat to the community and a jury agreed with us," said Gibbons. "I am hopeful that the Illinois Supreme Court will agree to hear this important case and restore justice for our community by reinstating the Jury's verdict."
Daily RFT left a message with Oduwole's attorney yesterday and will update if we hear back.
Here's the full petition for leave to appeal from Maddigan's office.
Join the Riverfront Times Press Club
Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.
Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.
Join the Riverfront Times Club for as little as $5 a month.