A federal court judge found a former Penn State Harrisburg student guilty yesterday of charges stemming from threatening posts officials say he made on a MySpace.com profile.
Steven Voneida, 24, of Harrisburg, is said to have placed a photographic illustration and poem focusing on the Virginia Tech shootings on his MySpace page on April 18, according to a press release from Martin Carlson, the acting U.S. attorney for the middle district of Pennsylvania.
A poem entitled "the Ballad of Cho Seung-hui" about Seung-Hui Cho -- the shooter who killed 32 people and then himself during a rampage on the Virginia Tech campus -- was just one of the pieces on Voneida's MySpace profile focusing on the incident, according to the press release. The poem itself appeared under a headline, "Virginia Tech Massacre: They got what they deserved."
In addition, Voneida's profile also threatened, "Someday I will make the Virginia Tech incident look like a trip to an amusement park," according to the press release.
Voneida was found guilty of transmitting communications containing a threat to injure and faces a maximum sentence of up to five years in prison, the press release stated. His sentencing has not yet been scheduled.
According to the press release, Penn State Police were notified of the posting after an Indiana University of Pennsylvania student contacted them.
Voneida was arrested July 2 after the completion of an investigation that resulted from information posted on MySpace and notification by Penn State Harrisburg, said Lower Paxton Township Police Lt. Dave Hogentogler. He added that the local FBI office was also involved.
Neither the FBI nor the U.S. Attorney's Office would comment on the case.
In late April, Penn State officials became aware of the MySpace postings, and Penn State Harrisburg staff met with Voneida, which resulted in the removal of some of the postings on his page, Penn State spokeswoman Lisa Powers said.
From that point onward, the university restricted Voneida's access to campus and began monitoring his behavior as well as "intervening with the appropriate officials," Powers said.
After criminal charges were filed against him, Voneida was banned from all Penn State campuses and was not allowed to complete his summer courses, Powers said.
Ken Voneida, Steven Voneida's father, said he disapproves of the way the university handled the situation.
While he found his son's statements "disgusting," Ken Voneida also said it did not constitute a real threat and should be protected through freedom of speech.
After a search of his home was conducted, Steven Voneida was charged with possessing a firearm after a former juvenile conviction disallowed such possession, Hogentogler said. A search of the premises by police found numerous weapons including a Ruger mini-14, a semiautomatic rifle, he added.
However, Ken Voneida said he owns the rifle, which he purchased on May 12. At the time, he said he didn't know his son had even talked with the university about the incident.
Additionally, Ken Voneida contests the previous juvenile conviction, which occurred when Steven Voneida was only 13 years old in 1997. He said it was reported inaccurately and should have been expunged from his record years ago.
Ken Voneida said police reports indicate that his son shot at a school bus when, instead, the 13-year-old shot at a stop sign.
While local police set his bail at $150,000, the federal government denied Steven Voneida bail, and he has been in Dauphin County prison ever since his arrest in July, his father said.
"This has been a nightmare," Ken Voneida said, adding that his son plans to appeal the conviction.