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UK student facing terroristic threatening charges

By: Gabriel Roxas Email
By: Gabriel Roxas Email

What began as a discrimination complaint took a strange turn when a UK official received a message the university says is no joke.

Investigators say 28-year-old Steven Kennedy included a picture of the Batman character, the joker in an email he sent to discuss a discrimination complaint he made.

The image of late Academy Award winner Heath Ledger as The Joker in the celebrated film, The Dark Knight is a powerful one, and since the massacre in Colorado it's taken on an even darker association.

That's why University of Kentucky Associate Vice President Terry Allen didn't want to take any chances when he received the image in an email. WKYT Crimetracker Don Evans, a former homicide detective, says Allen's concern is understandable. "Pre-Aurora, sending a picture of the Joker or holding a playing card of the Joker probably wouldn't mean a lot or get anywhere to the level of terroristic threatening," Evans said, "but look, everybody's very sensitive to that right now, and it's certainly reasonable to conclude that that could be a threat."

That's why the student who sent the image, Steven Kennedy, ended up under arrest. He says it's all a misunderstanding, and that the image was simply what he used as his email profile picture long before the Colorado massacre. "If the profile image was there prior to Aurora, and this is the profile image that this guy's had on all of his emails prior to Aurora, that's a different story," Evans said, "but if that image was changed post-Aurora, or if he sent anything else with a picture of the Joker after what happened in Aurora, then that's another story."

That's why the case is now with the court. Whether Kennedy is guilty of a crime remains to be determined, but in light of recent events Evans says no one can blame Allen for worrying what the image might mean. "After what happened in Aurora, you get a picture in the mail or an email of the Joker from someone that obviously has an issue with you or the school, and you didn't make authorities aware of that, so you'd have to answer to that too," Evans said.

Kennedy said in court Thursday afternoon he could not afford an attorney, so the judge said a public defender will be appointed for him.

UK responded to Kennedy's discrimination complaint saying, "The university takes very seriously any allegation of discrimination. Such allegations are fully investigated and, as needed, appropriate action is taken."

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