A Florida teen has been sentenced to four months in prison for threatening in an eMail message to finish what two student gunmen started last spring at Columbine High School.
U.S. Attorney Tom Strickland said the April 28 sentencing of Michael Ian Campbell, 18, delivered a message that internet threats will not be tolerated.
“When we first charged this case, we made it clear that this kind of conduct was serious conduct that had serious consequences, that these types of threats would not be tolerated,” Strickland said.
On Dec. 15, Campbell sent an online message telling Columbine sophomore Erin Walton he would finish what gunmen Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold started when they killed 13 people at Columbine High School, then shot themselves in April 1999.
Campbell’s message, sent under the screen name “Soup81,” prompted school officials to close Columbine for winter break two days early.
The teen-ager’s lawyer, Ellis Rubin, wanted to argue Campbell was innocent in an “internet intoxication” defense that said victims cannot distinguish between reality and cyber-reality after spending excessive time on the internet.
U.S. District Judge Edward Nottingham also ordered Campbell to serve three years’ probation, stop using the internet, and receive mental health treatment.
The judge said he believed Campbell had accepted responsibility, but evidence showed he had deliberately sought out a Columbine victim.
Walton, who cried during her statement before sentencing, left the courtroom in fresh tears when Campbell’s mother jumped up to help her fainting son and wagged a finger in Walton’s direction.
“It may have been a stupid prank, but that prank stole away the innocence of my daughter,” Jackie Walton told the judge. Her daughter has since left Columbine.