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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Harvard Student Accused of Bomb Hoax to Avoid Final Exam Appears Before Judge

A federal magistrate agreed to release a 20-year-old Harvard student from Washington State on a $100,000 bond Wednesday during a hearing on charges that he made bomb threats to avoid a final exam, according to a statement from the United States attorney’s office in Boston.

The Harvard Crimson, the university’s daily student newspaper, reported that Eldo Kim, a sophomore majoring in psychology, was arrested Tuesday and held overnight after admitting that he sent identical email messages at 8:30 a.m. Monday to Harvard administrators, the police and The Crimson warning, “bombs placed around campus.”

Mr. Kim admitted to investigators that he wrote the email messages to avoid a final exam, according to an affidavit from the United States attorney’s office. The messages, the affidavit said, stated that “shrapnel bombs” were placed in several university buildings and included a warning,”be quick for they will go off soon.”

In the more than 200 comments on The Crimson’s online report, several people saying they were students offered a mix of sympathy for Mr. Kim and outrage. One commenter claimed to have been evacuated with Mr. Kim to the library on Monday and expressed shock at the arrest.

The commenter, described online as a “classmate,” wrote:

Having been in the class, section, exam room, and was even evacuated to the library with Eldo, I can say this is a shocking and unfortunate surprise. He always came to lecture, sat in the front of the room, and provided insightful and constrictive discussion regularly. He clearly did the homework and cared about the class, and I’m certain if he would’ve gone into the final without having studied at all, he would’ve gotten at least a B. It’s a shame that this option crossed his mind as a risk worth taking. Should this have been well premeditated, it disgusts me that the thought of getting a low grade in this class was enough motivation for him to do what he did. It was a fairly easy class, but the exam was worth a very significant portion of the class grade, and we still haven’t received a single (concrete) assignment grade to date. I think the exhaustion, stress, and perceived necessity of earning the best grades says something pretty significant about our school and its culture. I dn’t think he deserves to rot and die in prison like some of these crazy comments say. I think he needs help, and I genuinely feel bad that something this drastic seemed like a reasonable escape for him.

Another comment read, “I feel terrible for this kid, he clearly snapped under the pressure and now this one stupid decision has ruined his life.”

And a commenter identified as a student said Mr. Kim was no Tsarnaev, referring to the brothers accused of planting the bombs at the finish line of the Boston Marathon in April that killed three people and injured more than 100.

“Never did he intend to hurt anyone or himself,” the commenter said. “The kid was unquestionably a coward, but I do sustain that a lack of bravery and resolve are the only judgements we can uphold against him.

But not everyone was sympathetic, pointing out that he had gone to extensive lengths to make the threats, including using tools to help disguise his identity and making police officials guess which buildings were at risk.

I do not feel sorry for him. I understand your statement about him snapping under pressure, but clearly he planned this out deliberately (going to great extents via guerillamail and TOR to avoid detection) and I do not think it was a spontaneous decision. In addition, the email he sent out was just plain creepy and twisted. It’s one thing to write “there may be bombs in these buildings”, it is a completely different story to make a “game” out of it and say two out of the four buildings have bombs. The email reminded me of something the Joker from Batman would do and it’s just creepy and absolutely wrong.

Another commenter agreed:

There is nothing quite like amateur hour psychological analysis absolving this student of responsibility for a severe and costly disruption to Harvard and the breaking of numerous federal and state criminal laws.

Because he forgot to go to Starbucks?

Gotta rank that right up there with the Affluenza defense.

According to a brief biography on the university’s website, Mr. Kim’s major is psychology and he is also looking to study Japanese. He was a research assistant for Prof. Gary King in analyzing partisan taunting. He also described himself as a writer for The Harvard International and dances at the Harvard Breakers. “In his free time, he enjoys playing pool, trying new restaurants, watching terrible cult films, and playing with his Mini Schnauzer puppy.”

The Crimson also reported that Mr. Kim wrote an email Saturday night on the Quincy House list server that said he had “several quick questions” about a course. “I was wondering if anyone had taken GOV 1368: The Politics of American Education (Paul Peterson) in the past,” Mr. Kim wrote in the email. “I have several quick questions about the course.”

The Crimson noted that the exam for that government class was scheduled to take place at 9 a.m. on Monday in Room 210 at Emerson Hall, one of the buildings evacuated after the threat.