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Law School Dean Goes to Prison for Making Internet Threats

What happened regarding a former dean of the Kaplan University Law School?

Former dean of Kaplan University Law School, Bennie Wilcox, was sentenced to a prison term of one year and one day following his conviction.

Last year, prosecutors sufficiently convinced a jury that Wilcox sent emails which threatened both the school in general, and Kaplan Inc. Chief Executive Officer Andrew Rosen in particular. Just recently, the judge of the US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Blanche Manning, sentenced Wilcox to confinement starting on September 16, and recommended that Wilcox serve his time at a federal institution in Florida.

What was Bernie Wilcox’s motivation for sending the threatening messages?

In 2007 Wilcox filed a suit with two other individuals against Kaplan, alleging that they had received student loan proceeds under false pretenses. Though Wilcox maintains that Kaplan acted in an illegal way, prosecutors encouraged the jury to ignore claims against Kaplan, and to instead look to the evidence of Wilcox sending the threatening messages to the school and its representatives. Despite the allegations from Wilcox, Kaplan continues to maintain its innocence, and asserts that Wilcox merely acted as a disgruntled former employee by filing suit against the education company.

The controversy emerges just as for-profit schools in the nation face close scrutiny by consumers and federal lawmaking officials. Statistics show that students at for-profit colleges default on their loans twice as often as students at public colleges and universities, and three times as high as students at non-profit private schools. In response to the statistics demonstrating difficulties experienced by for-profit institutions, the Obama administration announced it would strip for-profit institutions of the ability to participate in US student loan programs if for-profit schools continue to improperly prepare their students to repay the loans.

Why was Bennie Wilcox convicted?

Though Wilcox at trial denied transmitting the threatening emails, prosecutors presented both handwritten and videotape confessions Wilcox had made prior to trial in which Wilcox admitted to having sent the messages. At trial Wilcox claimed the confessions were made in an effort to protect his wife, who he claimed might have written the threatening emails following her alleged sexual abuse by a Kaplan executive. This argument, however, did not persuade a jury to find Wilcox not guilty.

Despite evidence that at least one of the threatening emails was sent via an account not belonging to Wilcox, prosecutors still prevailed in proving that Wilcox was, in fact, responsible for the threatening messages. In a world where determining who responsible for what submission on the internet is difficult, this case proves the possibility for conviction in such circumstances.

Mike Young, Esq.

Author Mike Young, Esq.

Mike Young has been practicing business and technology law since 1994 and is an angel investor in startups. He's been an entrepreneur since 1988. To get legal help from Attorney Young, click here now or call 214-546-4247 to schedule a phone consultation.

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