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Possible Case of Mistaken Psedonymity

July 08, 1996

Sacramento prosecutors created a stir in cyberspace recently when they lodged felony charges against a 19-year-old Texas student for allegedly making terrorist threats on the Internet against California State Sen. Tim Leslie (R-Carnelian Bay).

The pseudonymous online comments allegedly made by Jose Saavedra said "it would be great" if Leslie "were hunted down and skinned and mounted for our viewing pleasure" because of his support for a proposal that some said could restore sport hunting of mountain lions. Many Netizens said the remarks were clearly a parody and not a real threat, but Leslie and law enforcement officials said they had to be taken seriously.

But after news stories about the incident appeared, an unidentified man contacted The Times and said he--and not Saavedra--had made the postings in question. He also contacted Saavedra's El Paso lawyer, Michael R. Gibson, and Gibson later received computer printouts of messages that he said proved Saavedra wasn't involved. The printouts were forwarded to the FBI, but Gibson hasn't heard from them.

While federal and state officials sort it all out, Saavedra no longer faces extradition to California, nor will he go to prison: Sacramento prosecutors have decided to reduce the charges to a misdemeanor, though they said that decision was made before they learned of the possibly mistaken identity. Leslie supported the decision to reduce the charges.

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