Archive for the ‘Larry Burdick’ Category

Noose Student at Central Michigan University Will Not Be Charged With Ethnic Intimidation

July 30, 2008

This is breaking news – I just heard about it from the CM-Life.

Isabella County Prosecutor Larry Burdick has said that he will not be pressing charges against the 28-year-old male engineering student who hung a noose in the Industrial Educational Technology Building back in November.  (My previous posts on this subject can be found here, here, here, here, and here).

Burdick released a press release, saying, “I am confident of the work performed by the CMU police, in conjunction with the FBI.  The facts determined due to the joint investigation does not support a charge of ethnic intimidation, and the intent needed for that crime cannot be proven.”  And that’s basically what I said in my retraction to my original statementssaying that he should be charged.  The fact is, even IF he did it in an intimidating way, without a verification for that, Burdick can’t win the case, and if he tried, he’d be a bad prosecutor, in my opinion.

Burdick goes on to say, “The student’s e-mail to the campus newspaper was, in my opinion, both insensitive and demonstrative of a complete lack of knowledge and understanding about the historical significance of the hanging of nooses.  His explanation, however, as to the reason he constructed and hung four nooses last November was corroborated by two of his classmates, which I found to be very credible and forthright concerning the incident.”

Again – that shows that although the student made a very poor/stupid decision, it wasn’t intended to be a threat of force (and even if the student is lying, 2 witnesses would be hard for Burdick to argue against).

Burdick continues, “Because intent lies at the heart of the charge that was under consideration, both we and the FBI felt it important to fully and carefully examine the individual’s personal computer to see if there was anything to suggest his actions were racially motivated. … What happened on campus should not just serve as a badly needed educational experience for one college student, but enlighten all of us as to the detrimental effect of this symbol.”

Again – this was a good call by Burdick.

But now that Burdick has said all of this, this means that CMU cannot release the student’s name (under FERPA, only a person who commits a violent or sexual crime can have his/her name released).  As I said before, if Burdick doesn’t prosecute, as he now has decided not to, I’d wonder what rule CMU used to suspend the student.  The fact that no crime was committed gives the student a possible case against the university to overturn his suspension.  I really can’t give my opinion on this, since I don’t know what the university charged him with.

I would like to take this opportunity to invite the student to do an interview with me.  I have a few questions, some about the incident, but mostly about the aftermath and what will happen here.  So, to the student who hung the noose, if you’re out there reading this, and wouldn’t mind answering a few questions, e-mail me at

I’ll keep you all updated as this story keeps on developing.

Done Ranting,

Ranting Republican
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Central Michigan Officials Unable to Confirm/Deny Penalty for Noose Student

March 27, 2008

OK, so the Central Michigan Life did a story in response to my recent blog post and I just wanted to keep you updated on the situation.

The CM-Life asked for a statement from the university concerning the leak, and Tony Voisin, Director of Student Life, said, “It would be a problem for that person to be leaking information to the media.”

The CM-Life also talked to Isabella County Prosecutor Larry Burdick who told the Life that the forensic results of some of the evidence have not yet been returned to him, saying, “I realize it is a source of frustration.  It is for me, too.”

A Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) submitted to CMU was denied because the investigation is still ongoing (and I will agree that they probably shouldn’t release anything in an ongoing investigation, although I haven’t found anything in Michigan law that indicates that a crime was committed).

To back up my previous statements that I don’t think that a crime was committed, a comment was left linking to a Connecticut Post article that discusses a law that is currently being proposed in Connecticut that would make hanging nooses a hate crime.  Michigan has hate crime laws similar to Connecticut, which would imply that as of now, hanging nooses is not illegal (not that it’s right – I think it’s terrible, but it’s free speech as long as you aren’t threatening anybody specifically).

I’ll keep you updated as any information comes in, but right now it looks like we’re just waiting for Larry Burdick to reach his decision on whether or not to prosecute.

Done Reporting,

Ranting Republican
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Leaked Info: Noose Student at Central Michigan Suspended

March 21, 2008

I received the following information from a source familiar with the circumstances of the hearing and the general hearing process (read here for my previous post on this:

CMU has kicked the student out until Aug. 1, 2008. The student (a white male senior … not a black guy trying to generate sympathy for “his cause,” as some have suggested)), will take incompletes on his course work and finish them after Aug. 1. He’ll then be allowed to graduate.

At an earlier student disciplinary hearing, the panel wanted to kick him out of school permanently. He appealed that decision, and the appeals panel reduced the penalty.

As you know, the county prosecutor is still weighing whether to bring criminal charges against him. I can’t imagine that he will. Michigan’s ethnic intimidation statute requires that an act be directed at an individual, and, as far as I can see, there was no such thing here. And – unless that intimidation factor is present — it’s not a crime to be a racist or to express racist thoughts.

This really did surprise me. As I indicated in the previous post, it is VERY unlikely that he broke any laws (although what he did was in my eyes wrong – if it wasn’t racist, it was poor judgment in the least, and if it was racist, it’s morally wrong, but legally there’s nothing wrong with being racist).

It wasn’t directed against anybody, and as I pointed out, without a direction of the threat, you can’t prove that there was a threat of FORCE.  For instance, (and this simplifies the situation by taking out the implications of nooses in our society), leaving a baseball bat on a desk isn’t a crime, but going into an NAACP event and yelling racist phrases is a hate crime (I know hate crime isn’t a legal term, but it’s easier than saying U.S. Federal Code, Title …).

So, if this information is true, as I expect it is, I am disappointed in CMU’s decision.  Even further, I’d like to know what they charged him with, because as I said before, if it was a violent crime (which involves even the threat of violence) that they charged him with, they CAN release the information, as is stated in the Family Education Righs and Privacy Act (FERPA), and I may FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) for it (or if someone a little more legally knowledgeable would like to volunteer, it’d be greatly appreciated).

If Isabella County Prosecutor Larry Burdick doesn’t charge him (which I doubt he will if they’ve waited this long), I think that the student should bring this to court.

Done Ranting,

Ranting Republican
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What Ever Happened to the “Noose Student” at CMU?

March 17, 2008

OK, so the recent controversy with Dennis Lennox has made me wonder, what about the student who hung the nooses?

First, I owe the student somewhat of an apology.  I got caught up in my “A good prosecutor could win that case” syndrome and misinterpreted the law too far.  I claimed that U.S. Federal Code Title 18, Part 1, Chapter 13, § 245 could be interpreted to mean that he should be charged with a hate crime being “something intimidating that interferes with attending a public college, therefore making it a hate crime and thus illegal.”  I was interpreting Clause (b) which states “Whoever, whether or not acting under color of law, by force or threat of force willfully injures, intimidates or interferes with, or attempts to injure, intimidate or interfere with…”

And here’s where I messed up – I did not look up any case law for “force.”  Hanging a noose is not a threat of force.  Is it intimidating?  Yes.  Is it a threat of force?  No.  Also, it was not directed at any particular group of people.  Sure it’s pretty much common knowledge that nooses are a symbol of lynching and racism against African Americans, but you can’t use an assumption as a prosecutor.

The point is, there’s too much “reasonable doubt” that a “good prosecutor” would know that he’d be playing on the emotions of any jury in trying to convict this student.

But wait, there’s more…

According to a CM-Life article, “Because of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act [FERPA], university officials cannot release student records, which include disciplinary matters.  Information about the case – including the student’s name – might only be released if Isabella County Prosecutor Larry Burdick decides there is enough evidence to press charges.”

Here’s an excerpt from FERPA (Title 20, Chapter 31, Subchapter III, Part 4, § 1232g (b) (6)):

(B)Nothing in this section shall be construed to prohibit an institution of postsecondary education from disclosing the final results of any disciplinary proceeding conducted by such institution against a student who is an alleged perpetrator of any crime of violence (as that term is defined in section 16 of title 18), or a nonforcible sex offense, if the institution determines as a result of that disciplinary proceeding that the student committed a violation of the institution’s rules or policies with respect to such crime or offense.
(C) For the purpose of this paragraph, the final results of any disciplinary proceeding—
  (i) shall include only the name of the student, the violation committed, and any sanction imposed by the institution on that student; and
  (ii) may include the name of any other student, such as a victim or witness, only with the written consent of that other student.

And here’s the definition of “crime of violence (as that term is defined in section 16 of title 18)”:

The term “crime of violence” means—
(a) an offense that has as an element the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the person or prop­erty of another, or
(b) any other offense that is a felony and that, by its nature, involves a substantial risk that physical force against the person or property of another may be used in the course of committing the offense.

So, then if a hate crime was committed (that would mean that my current interpretation of the U.S. Code that discusses hate crimes would be incorrect, and my original interpretation would be correct), then the university would be allowed to release the information.

Dawn Hertz, general counsel for the Michigan Press Association said, “There is someone in Washington [D.C.] who would threaten their federal funding if they released their name.  The university really has to be extremely careful.”

Tony Voisin, director of Student Life, said explained the disciplinary process by saying that anybody who violates the Student Code of Conduct must meet with a Conduct Proceedings Officer, after which, the officers decides if enough evidence exists to discipline the student.  He then went on to explain that hearings only take place when students do not admit guilt, saying, “To date, we’ve had about 10 hearings.  Over the course of the year, we may have 700-plus violations, and only 20 are tried.  We can’t share even the fact that there is a hearing.  The university can’t share those results with anybody other than the student involved.  It’s the business of the student involved and nobody else.”

Dean of Students, Bruce Roscoe told the CM-Life that even releasing the student’s punishment could be a violation of FERPA.

But we just read in FERPA that it’s acceptable to release the students name and punishment if the crime was violent.  The only crime that hanging a noose could be is a hate crime (I know hate crime isn’t a technical term, but it’s quicker than saying the crime established in U.S. Federal Code…).  So, if the student WAS found guilty, then logically, the hearing results could be released.

So, in a normal situation, I would assume based on all of this that the student was found not guilty, and thus the results of the hearing could not be released; however, since I know the history of CMU (specifically the Student Life Department), I’m not going to assume anything.

If anybody does have any information about the case, please let me know.

Done Ranting,

Ranting Republican
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Central Michigan: Nooses Found in Engineering and Technology Building at CMU, Suspect Turned Himself In

November 18, 2007

Well – I had been waiting to write about this until something developed, and I had given up that any more developments were going to come, so I went to get the news article and found out that the guy turned himself in.  So, now I can write…

On Monday of last week (November 12th), nooses were found in Room 228 of the Engineering and Technology Building at Central Michigan University.  A few protests happened, and now the guy (or one of them) turned himself in to CMU Police.  Police Chief Stan Dinius plans to forward the case on to Isabella County Prossecutor Larry Burdick.

Let’s get this guy for as much as we can – stuff like this is stupid and immature, and this guy needs to be made an example to all the rest of the racist pigs like him.  Give him the maximum, and maybe stuff like this won’t happen again.

Done Ranting,

Ranting Republican

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