University of Wyoming Police: Rape Threat Came from Alleged Target
April 30, 2013
CASPER, Wyo. — The University of Wyoming Police Department says Meg Lanker-Simons created the anonymous threat of sexual violence targeted at her on social media last week.
The university announced Tuesday that campus police cited Lanker-Simons for misdemeanor interference with a police investigation.
Lanker-Simons accused an anonymous source of posting a threat of rape on the Facebook page “UW Crushes” on April 24. But the citation issued Monday claims Lanker-Simons admitted to making the post, then lied about it.
The UW senior told the Star-Tribune on Tuesday that the police accusations were untrue. Lanker-Simons said she retained legal counsel and filed an entry-of-appearance plea of not guilty. The citation set a court date for May 13. Charles Pelkey, Lanker-Simons’ attorney, declined to comment.
UW Crushes was a forum designed for students to anonymously write about their love interests and sexual desires. UW administrators have since had the page removed. Before its removal, anyone could have signed into a Facebook account, gone to UW Crushes and secretly submitted a comment via a link to surveymonkey.com. The posts were then made public on Facebook.
“I want to hatef— Meg Lanker- so hard,” the Facebook post read. “That chick that runs her liberal mouth all the time and doesn’t care who knows it. I think its hot and it makes me angry. One night with me and shes gonna be a good Republican b—-.”
Campus police contacted Lanker-Simons after the post generated a significant amount of comments on social media and university officials were swamped with comments and inquiries.
The police obtained a search warrant to search Lanker-Simons’ computer and found “substantial evidence” the threat was created on her computer while it was in her possession, according to a media release from the university.
“This episode has sparked an important discussion reaffirming that the UW community has no tolerance for sexual violence or violence of any type,” UW spokesman Chad Baldwin said in the release. “The fact that the Facebook post apparently was a fabrication does not change the necessity for continued vigilance in assuring that we have a campus where everyone feels safe.”
The police allegations caught a lot of people off guard, said Megan Selheim, the Stop the Violence Program Coordinator at UW. Selheim said she worked with Lanker-Simons last week because university officials were unsure whether the student was in danger. Selheim said fabrications can sometimes affect how people who are truly in danger seek help.
“When something like this happens and when it seems like a threat, it may not be everything we thought it was, it can sometimes reinforce misinterpretations that people have in how common violence is,” Selheim said.
Lanker-Simons is a well-known liberal blogger and radio host whose fans were upset about the Facebook comment. The post sparked rape-culture awareness protests on Monday at the university.
Lanker-Simons also has detractors. She and former 1960s radical Bill Ayers sued UW in 2010 to allow Ayers to speak on campus about education issues. Lanker-Simons and Ayers won the case, and Ayers spoke on campus later that year. Many people were outraged at Lanker-Simons. She claimed to have received death threats.
Sarah Zacharias said she met Lanker-Simons just last week. She was with her new friend when Lanker-Simons allegedly saw the UW Crushes post for the first time. Zacharias said she spent the weekend comforting Lanker-Simons in the aftermath. Zacharias is a freelance journalist and state director for unitewomen.org, a national women’s equality group.
“Her acting is impeccable if she really did this,” Zacharias said.
Some are questioning the university police department’s investigation. It would take months to perform a real investigation, said Pamela Kandt, co-convener of the Episcopal Women’s Caucus.
“The UW Police Department was faced with a very technologically challenging case,” Kandt said.
The police had a “tremendous amount of pressure to get the results quickly” after a flood of complaints hit UW last week, she said.
Information from Facebook and Survey Monkey was critical in gathering evidence in the case, Baldwin told the Star-Tribune.
“At least one (social-media site) provided information in a rapid fashion that was instrumental in this case,” Baldwin said.
Lanker-Simons has been in similar situations in the past. She claimed to have received a death threat via email in March 2011 before syndicated columnist Ann Coulter visited UW.
The message, which listed Lanker-Simon’s address and included a description of her car, was emailed to the Star-Tribune.
“If I see her I will send her to Hell with one shot and you can bet I wont miss,” the email stated.
Lanker-Simons’ past history with threats did not affect the investigation, Baldwin said.