SIU student accused of threatening rampage calls it misunderstanding

By Jim Suhr

EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. – A Southern Illinois University student accused of writing a note threatening a rampage similar to the April one at Virginia Tech called the matter a frustrating “misunderstanding” blown out of proportion by reporters and prosecutors.

“I believe in God, and I believe God knows I have no intentions of ill-will,” Olutosin Oduwole, speaking publicly for the first time since his arrest last month, said after pleading not guilty to a four-count indictment, which included a charge that he attempted to make a terrorist threat.

The indictment, returned earlier Thursday by a Madison County grand jury, also accuses Oduwole of unlawful weapons possession, felony theft and computer fraud. The indictment replaces identical charges filed last month in a criminal complaint.

Oduwole pleaded not guilty to the indictment’s counts, one day after he was freed after posting 10 percent – $110,000 in cash – of his $1.1 million bond.

“I’m just frustrated by this whole thing,” he said. “I’m glad to be free and hope the public can see who I am and not who the media paints me to be.”

Oduwole’s look – a light suit, pinstripe shirt and polka-dotted tie – contrasted sharply with previous depictions of him by authorities as someone who anxiously was trying to amass semiautomatic guns online and seen walking around campus with a bullet-resistant vest.

“I’m just hoping this case will be dismissed,” Oduwole said, adding he was “very confident” he won’t serve jail time on the charges.

Authorities have said the note found by campus police July 20 in Oduwole’s disabled car did not specifically mention targeting the Edwardsville campus. The note, authorities say, said “a murderous rampage similar to the VT shooting will occur at another highly populated university” if Oduwole wasn’t paid $50,000. “THIS IS NOT A JOKE!” the note read.

Oduwole, an aspiring rapper, countered Thursday that he’d written the note months ago and had forgotten it was even in his car.

One of his attorneys, Philip Dennis, insisted the note innocently was inspired by a Cartoon Network episode of “Robot Chicken” in which a gun was held to the head of a clay-animation bunny, with the threat that the bunny would be shot if enough money wasn’t raised. Oduwole saw a similar theme in a “Law and Order” episode, Dennis said.

“It’s something he wrote down while watching television,” the attorney insisted.

Dennis again pressed his claim that Oduwole – a U.S. citizen with a Nigerian passport – was the victim of ethnic profiling. He said there are many examples of violence-themed rap about murder, the deadly rampage at Colorado’s Columbine High and Sept. 11 and none of the artists performing those songs have been arrested.

“We have a terrifying appetite for what shocks,” Dennis said. “The one who got arrested is who’s name is Oduwole. That’s entirely what it’s about. It’s profiling.”

Oduwole’s interest in buying firearms surfaced last month when federal authorities say they were told by a gun dealer that Oduwole seemed overly anxious to get weapons he had ordered online. But Thursday, Dennis said his client meant to only buy the weapons and quickly resell them for a profit – ” a good way to finance other endeavors,” including his rap interests.

Oduwole hopes to resume his college education, but it won’t be at Southern Illinois University here, at least for now.

Immediately after he stepped from jail Wednesday, the school notified students and employees by e-mail and on its Web site that Oduwole was free: “Please be on the alert for any alarming or suspicious activity surrounding the recent charges against this individual,” the advisory read.

As a condition of his bond, Oduwole was barred from entering school grounds or coming within 1,500 feet of the university.

Oduwole refused to reveal where he was living as he awaited his next court appearance Sept. 10.