Wednesday, September 19, 2012
LOS ANGELES — A former Yale University student remained jailed on $1 million bail, an amount normally reserved for murder or other crimes that could result in life sentences, after authorities said he made online death threats to children.
Eric Yee, a 21-year-old who recently withdrew from the Ivy League university, posted on ESPN’s website that he was watching children and wouldn’t mind killing them, Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials said.
Yee was taken into custody Monday at his parents’ home, which is on a street that overlooks two schools in Santa Clarita, Calif. Several guns were found there.
Sheriff’s Lt. Steve Low said Yee was arrested for investigation of making terrorist threats. Bail was set at $1 million because the threat involved children, his home’s proximity to two schools and several unregistered weapons that have been recovered, Low said.
He wouldn’t say if there is any evidence whether Yee would make good on his threat, but experts said the bail amount was very high for a person suspected of making terrorist threats.
“To put it in perspective, $1 million is the presumptive bail for murder,” said Hanni Fakhoury, an attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation and a former federal public defender who is not involved in the case. In comparison, the presumptive bail for making terrorist threats is $50,000 and it would take many specific circumstances to push it much higher, Fakhoury said.
Yee was arrested after the sports network ESPN reported threats were posted in a reader response section to an online story about new Nike sneakers named after LeBron James that cost $270 a pair. Some of the nearly 3,000 reader comments on the story talked about children possibly getting killed over the expensive sneakers, said ESPN spokesman Mike Soltys.
The post that led police to Yee referred to a shooting that would be like the one in Aurora, Colo., where 12 people were killed and 58 others were injured in July, authorities said.
“What he was posting had nothing to do with sports,” Soltys said. “We closely monitor the message boards and anytime we get a threat, we’re alerting law enforcement officials.”
An employee at ESPN headquarters in Bristol, Conn., notified local police the same day and they linked the comments to the home of Yee’s parents. Sheriff’s investigators watched the home until they got a search warrant.
Yee and his family could not be reached for comment. His attorney, David Wallin, couldn’t immediately talk about the case Wednesday.
Both schools near the home were open Tuesday, although at least three children didn’t attend class after they were notified by the school about the arrest, said Dianne Saunders, principal of Santa Clarita Elementary School.
Authorities said they were looking at several computers to see if the suspect had made similar posts on the Internet. Investigators also were trying to determine who the guns belong to, Low said.
“We take all these kinds of threats serious, especially with the climate of other shootings around the nation over the past year,” Low said.
Sheriff’s investigators were working with Bristol police and police at Yale University, which said Yee was a student until he withdrew this May for undisclosed reasons. Yale officials said he had been expected to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in economics this past spring.
A Yale website listed him as a member of its class of 2012 and a participant in a leadership training program.