Former Dean Convicted Over Threatening E-mails

Bennie Wilcox unleashed torrent of emails after losing job from online university three years ago

View Comments (
)
|
Email
|
Print

    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    Sun-Times Media
    Bennie Wilcox

    A former Kaplan University dean on Friday was convicted on six counts of  sending threatening e-mail messages to executives, students and other employees of the online school.

    Bennie Wilcox, a former Dean of Legal Studies, hacked into the school's e-mail system after he was let go from his $111,000-a-year job, the jury found.

    Wilcox left the Dirksen Federal Courthouse without comment after the verdict, reached by seven women and five men, was announced.

    The saga began three years ago, when some Kaplan University students received a disturbing message in their e-mail inboxes.

    "YOU ARE F-----!" was the subject heading. The e-mail was signed by the head of the online school.

    "Your schools (sic) Web site has been Hacked!" the e-mail threatened.  "All of your personal information . . . will now be used to ruin your credit, take out credit cards in your name and pay for on-line gambling."

    The e-mails were sent from another employee’s computer after Wilcox hacked into her account.

    The messages kept coming in the summer of 2007.  Executives testified they hired armed guards at home and at their offices after receiving them.

    "He's vulgar, he's profane, he's nasty, he's mean, and he threatens people," Assistant U.S. Attorney Joel Hammerman said in closing arguments Thursday.

    Defense attorney Beau Brindley argued that Wilcox was framed. Wilcox testified that a blue-eyed, gray-haired goon paid Wilcox a visit warning him he’d be retaliated against, purportedly for blowing the whistle on Kaplan’s alleged misconduct.

    Hammerman pointed to Wilcox’s confessions to the FBI. There were four of them, he said, including in writing and in person.

    Enter wife Karilyn Wilcox.

    Bennie Wilcox, who took the stand, said he was acting chivalrous. He told the FBI he did it because he thought his wife may have sent the e-mails. She testified she had been assaulted and her husband had reason to believe she was bottling anger.

    If he really had done it, he wouldn’t have confessed four times, Brindley argued.

    "The only reason you do that is to protect somebody else you think might have" done it, Brindley told jurors.

    Karilyn Wilcox testified that after she was interviewed by the FBI, she asked her husband if he sent the e-mails. She said he told her: "I’ll take care of it."