"As far as this office can determine, there is no precedent for a
case that involves the Internet."
-- Sam Hutchins
Detroit U.S. Attorney's Office
[DPS == Department of Public Safety (University Police)]
[SSRR == Student Statement of Rights and Responsibilities (non-academic conduct code)]
I have more accurate information now, gleaned from the Michigan Daily and WDIV-Detroit. Daily reporters were Ronnie Glassberg, Josh White, and Editor in Chief Michael Rosenberg. [I wish they'd put the Daily online.]
Abraham Jacob Alkhabaz (Jake Baker, he uses his mother's name) has been arraigned in U.S. District Court and charged with criminal "transmission in interstate or foreign commerce of a communication containing any threat to kidnap any person or any threat to injure the person of another." This is a federal offense and carries a sentence of up to 5 years in federal prison.
Baker was denied bail by U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas A. Carlson because Carlson deemed him a threat to society. WDIV reported that the judge referred to Baker as a ticking bomb.
David Cahill, Baker's attorney, will not represent Baker in District Court because he is not a criminal lawyer. Cahill is in the process of retaining a specialist in federal criminal law. "I think it's been blown totally out of proportion," Cahill said. "Nothing's happened. It's admitted that nothing's happened."
WDIV reported that someone in the U.S. Attorney's office pointed out that serial killers often fantasize about their actions before carrying them out. Cahill said a psychologist in Ohio determined that Baker was not a threat to himself or others, after examining Baker on Tuesday (2/7/95). "We had a local psychiatrist who said the same thing: Fantasies are not threats," Cahill said.
Baker signed a letter of consent that allowed DPS to search his belongings, including his computer files. He also initially waived his Miranda rights.
In searching his email account, DPS found correspondence between Baker and Canadian Arthur Gronda, in which the two discuss torturing a woman. In an affidavit, FBI Special Agent Greg Stejskal quotes an email message from Baker to Gronda:
"I don't want any blood in my room, though I have come upon an excellent method to abduct a bitch. As I said before, my room is right across from the girl's bathroom. Wiat (sic) until late at night, grab her when she goes to unlock the door. Knock her unconscious, and put her into one of those portable lockers (forgot the name for it), or even a duffle bag. Then hurry her out to the car and take her away ... what do you think?"
Gronda responds to Baker's message:
"I have been out tonight and I can tell you that I am thinking more about 'doing' a girl. I can picture it so well ... and I can think of no better use for their flesh. I HAVE to make a bitch suffer!"
In another message, Baker wrote "Torture is foreplay, rape is romance, snuff is climax." [for the newbies: snuff == murder]
WDIV reported that Baker and Gronda discussed the abduction and rape of girls as young as 12 and 13 years old.
Joan Lowenstein, a communications department lecturer the Daily is using as a first amendment consultant, said that even with the messages, Baker's speech remains protected.
"It's the action that's connected with the speech that's not protected," Lowenstein said. "It is protected speech unless there is some act that turns it into a crime."
Lowenstein said the prosecutor will need to connect Baker's messages to some action linked to the described plan. For instance, she said that buying a bag like he mentions in the email could connect him to criminal behavior.
"A key point is whether this was a fantasy or whether there was something that made it likely that the crime would occur," Lowenstein said. "Any time there's a statute that criminalizes a threat, it still has to be a viable threat."
Baker's SSRR hearing was adjourned after 4 hours of deliberation, and will be continued next week. Baker was unable to attend the hearing because he was in jail.
The woman named in Baker's story has declined comment and is considering leaving the University.
I post this information to the Internet because I believe it to be a ground-breaking case in free speech and privacy rights on the Internet. I post the information here in as unbiased a manner as I am capable, so that readers can get a broader view of the story. You may be able to find out more from the following news sources covering the case:
Detroit Free Press (available on Compuserve)
Detroit News (hasn't covered case on campus yet)
TV WJBK-2 (Fox) Detroit
TV WDIV-4 (NBC) Detroit (contact at wdiv.com)
TV WXYZ-7 (ABC) Detroit
I think the other TV stations are available on Compuserve or AOL, but I don't know their addresses.
It is spring break at UM in 1 week; I will be out of town for 5 days, disconnected from the net and local Detroit news. Don't ask me why "spring break" is in February. If someone else would like to post developments during that time, feel free.
I have never met Jake Baker. If you don't like what he did, please don't complain to me about it. Thanks in advance.
| Peter J. Swanson | firstname.lastname@example.org |
| PhD Candidate | controls specialist |
| Electrical Engineering:Systems | impact, chaotic motion, |
| University of Michigan | vibratory part orientation |