Ohio high school student faces trial for linking to threatening Web site

A Mechanicsburg High School junior will stand trial Nov. 3 forusing his home computer to create a link on his personal Web page to a friend’soff-campus Web site, which school administrators and peers later deemed a threatto school safety. The Mechanicsburg student who created the site will also standtrial Nov. 3.

The student who linked to the site, Jameson Pack, 16, ischarged with six counts of a first degree misdemeanor for aggravated menacing, afourth degree felony for complicity to menacing by stalking and a first degreemisdemeanor for inducing panic. In addition, school administrators suspended himfor 10 days and banned him from the school’s computer facilities for two years,said Lisa Pack, Jameson’s mother.

Joshua Allerton, the student whocreated the Web site, is charged with six counts of menacing by stalking, afourth degree felony; six counts of aggravated menacing, a first degreemisdemeanor; and inducing panic, also a first degree misdemeanor.

In apretrial hearing held Oct. 1, the court determined that Jameson Pack andAllerton will be tried in juvenile court at the same time, Lisa Packsaid.

Detectives from the Champaign County Sheriff’s Office confiscatedthree computers from the Pack’s residence last week to be used as evidence inthe November trial, Lisa Pack said. She said she is researching the legalgrounds for having her family’s computers returned.

The 15 students whosenames were listed on the Web site have been subpoenaed, Lisa Pack said. Atypical Mechanicsburg High School graduating class has about 30 students, shesaid.

Lisa Pack said she filed a complaint about her son’s charges withthe American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio.

According to the ChampaignCounty Sheriff’s Office incident report, one of the students’ classmates and hermother reported the existence of a Web site entitled, “Melodies of Life” inSeptember. The site listed the girl and some of her friends under the category”preps.” The report claims that the Web site endorsed violent action against thegroup of girls and encouraged the use of a semi-automatic assault type rifleagainst them. The girls are students at Mechanicsburg HighSchool.

Allerton, 16, declined to comment for this story. His attorney,Brad Singer, could not be reached for comment.

SPLC View: Thecharges in this case are quite a legal stretch. As far as we know, this is thefirst time a student has gone to court to face criminal charges based not onwhat he created for his own Web site, but rather for simply linking to a Website created by someone else. Outside of a few copyright cases where someone haslinked to pages on another Web site and tried to pass the material off as theirown, courts have generally not imposed liability for simply providing a link -and nothing more – to a Web site whose content is controlled by someoneelse.