Teen rejects ‘internet intoxication’ defense for eMail threat

A Florida teen accused of threatening a Columbine High School student over the internet has decided to change his plea to guilty, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office said Feb. 6.

Michael Ian Campbell, 18, of Cape Coral, Fla., is accused of telling a Columbine student he would “finish what begun” at the high school last April, when two teen-age gunmen killed 12 students and a teacher before committing suicide.

The Denver Post reported that Campbell decided to plead guilty to one count of transmitting a threat against another person in interstate commerce.

In January, Campbell pleaded innocent to the charge, a felony that carries a sentence of up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

The case made national headlines when Campbell’s attorney, Ellis Rubin of Miami, outlined a defense of “internet intoxication.” On Feb. 6, Campbell called that “the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard of,” the Post reported.

Campbell’s attorneys notified a federal judge in Denver “that it’s their intention to plead guilty,” said Jeff Dorschner, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney in Denver.

Dorschner would not say whether prosecutors had agreed to reduce the charge against Campbell.

Rubin had planned to argue that Campbell, an aspiring actor, was suffering from “internet intoxication” and was role-playing when he sent the threat.

“To intoxicate is to elevate yourself into a state of euphoria, even into madness,” Rubin said in January. “You’ve logged on and gone into this imaginary world, this playland, this make-believe arena.”

He added: “That’s why I call it internet intoxication. The more they go into the internet, the more bizarre their role-playing becomes.”

The proposed strategy was something of an update of the argument Rubin used in defense of another Florida teen-ager in 1977, when many baby boomers were as glued to their TV sets as their children are to computer monitors today.

Ronny Zamora, 15, was convicted of murdering an elderly neighbor in Miami Beach after a trial in which Rubin argued that “television intoxication” led to the slaying.

In an appeal, Zamora turned against his lawyer and claimed the TV intoxication argument made a mockery of his defense. But the court upheld the conviction and said Rubin’s argument may have even worked to Zamora’s advantage.

Campbell said he is to blame for what happened and he wants to get the case over with, even if it means going to prison for six months.

Rubin could not be reached for comment.

Jackie Walton, the mother of the Columbine student who received the threat on America Online’s instant messaging system, said prosecutors told her Campbell would get probation.

Walton gave Colorado station KUSA-TV a letter she sent to prosecutors protesting the pending plea bargain.

“This is a man who terrorized my family, my community, and my sanity for three days,” she wrote. “Mr. Campbell will face community service for a time, and my daughter faces the rest of her life in fear.”

Campbell’s decision to plead guilty comes four days after federal prosecutors claimed Campbell had threatened to use a gun to hurt students at a Florida high school in 1998.

In court documents, prosecutors said Campbell made the threat to a female Cypress Lake High School student by telephone in April 1998.

In the Colorado case, Campbell is accused of sending his threat via AOL’s instant message service to Erin J. Walton, 16, who was then a junior at Columbine. She notified authorities, who traced the threat to Campbell in Florida.

Columbine administrators closed school two days early for Christmas vacation after the threat. Walton reportedly has transferred to another school.


The Denver Post

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