Appeal sought over Illinois threat conviction tossed

Originally Posted Online: March 21, 2013, 4:16 pm
Last Updated: March 22, 2013, 9:38 am
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ST. LOUIS (AP) — Prosecutors said Thursday they plan to seek a challenge of an Illinois appellate court's decision overturning an aspiring rapper's conviction on allegations that he threatened a murderous college rampage, muddying the man's newfound freedom from prison.

Madison County State's Attorney Tom Gibbons said he would ask Illinois' attorney general to decide the merits of appealing on his behalf to the state's Supreme Court the case involving Olutosin Oduwole, who was released Monday from a prison where he had been serving a five-year sentence.

A three-judge panel with Illinois' 5th District Appellate Court tossed out Oduwole's 2011 conviction last week, ruling that prosecutors failed to prove he ever actively tried to convey a threat through a questioned slip of paper found four years earlier in his abandoned car at a college he was attending in southern Illinois.

Prosecutors say scribblings on the paper constituted a note threatening a murderous rampage if he wasn't paid $50,000. Oduwole claimed the writings were just lyrics or other unthreatening musings, an argument the appeals court couldn't dispute.

In declaring the legal fight far from over, Gibbons said Thursday in a statement "we respectfully disagree with the decision by the appellate court and feel that not all evidence presented to the jury during the trial was weighed and considered appropriately" before Oduwole's conviction was scrapped.

"I am asking (Attorney General Lisa Madigan) to join us in the fight to protect our community and to honor this jury's decision by pursuing this case to the Illinois Supreme Court," Gibbons said.

Maura Possley, a spokeswoman for Madigan, said Gibbons' appellate request was being reviewed.

Jeff Urdangen, an attorney for Oduwole, maintained his client's innocence, calling Oduwole "a popular, well-adjusted student and accomplished rap music lyricist" who wrongly "was branded a terrorist" by prosecutors.

"This was a misguided prosecution from the outset, which sought to criminalize speech without regard for the most basic First Amendment protections," Urdangen said in a statement emailed to The Associated Press.

He insisted the appellate court "has corrected a grave injustice" resulting from law enforcers "who were unwilling to analyze the facts in a measured way."

"We remain confident that our client will be allowed to move on with his life, at long last," Urdangen said.

During his trial, prosecutors argued that on the piece of paper found in his car at the Southern Illinois University campus in Edwardsville, just northeast of St. Louis, Oduwole had written he would go on a murderous rampage similar to one just months earlier at Virginia Tech.

While referencing the Virginia Tech massacre, which left 32 people dead along with the gunman, the writing did not make any direct reference to targeting the Edwardsville campus.

Urdangen countered the "note" was "nothing more than a piece of scrap paper with private thoughts, the beginning of a song," that the writing was never meant to be made public or shared, and that his client's prosecution was "a First Amendment train wreck."


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