Kenneth Royal Wheeler was apparently under the illusion that he could post anything on Facebook, no matter how objectionable, as long as he was out of the country.
Not exactly. A jury in U.S. District Court has found Wheeler guilty in regard to Facebook threats targeting police officers related to a previous bust for driving under the influence. As a bonus, he not only targeted specific cops by name, but also their kids, who attended a local daycare.
Wheeler's message probably wasn't widely distributed: His page remains online, and it only shows sixteen friends. But he could get five years in prison anyhow.
Given that Wheeler's troubles with the law emanated from his Facebook page, it's genuinely surprising that a version remains accessible at this writing. Many of the posts are protected by a privacy setting, but there are photos aplenty, including this one showing him pretending to sleep through a class at Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction....
...and this one, taken when he was considerably more alert:
According to the U.S. Attorney's Office, Wheeler, 32, first came to the attention of the local police department after cops received a tip about a post shared on his Facebook page. The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel's original article about Wheeler, published in March 2012, describes the item as "rambling" and "often nonsensical," and based on excerpts from the warrant issued in his name -- for instance, the introduction cited the "STARDRAGON celestial override contingency" -- that sounds about right. But underpinning the weirdness were violent statements.
Examples? Wheeler urged folks to go after "rapists, pedophiles and cops," writing, "kill them all. Hang em upside down set their face on fire and saw them in half."
The mention of cops wasn't a general one: He referenced three Grand Junction police officers by name, as well as a specific daycare center in central GJ. He suggested that his "followers" just "walk in and kill everybody. phug it. they want to play games lets play the game of life, where winners live and losers die."
Another catchy quote mentioned by the U.S. Attorney's Office: "kill cops. drown them in the blood of their children, hunt them down and kill their entire blood lines" -- but only if "my dui charges are not dropped." The Sentinel reports that he was awaiting trial on a DUI from May 2011.
Apparently, Wheeler felt he could share such thoughts on Facebook with impunity because of his location; he wrote, "the americans cant punish me for what i say here in rome italy on facebook."
Turns out Wheeler actually was in Rome -- but authorities with Homeland Security Investigations didn't brush off these remarks due to his locale at the time they went online. Indeed, when he flew back into Grand Junction, he was arrested at the airport.
Late last week, more than a year after his Facebook-related arrest, a jury found Wheeler guilty on two counts of sending interstate threatening communications. He's scheduled for sentencing on January 15, and possible punishment includes up to five years in federal prison and a fine of as much as $250,000 on each count.
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Guess posting on Facebook from out of the country doesn't qualify as a free pass.
More from our News archive circa July: "Chris Craig, ex-college basketball coach, ID'd as man threatening Catholics, Mormons."