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Bashing Bush costs Mars Hill student his computer

By Clarke Morrison
March 16, 2006 6:00 am

MARS HILL — The U.S. Secret Service seized a computer from the dorm room of a Mars Hill College student after he posted a message on a Web site apparently deemed threatening to President Bush.

Freshman Tim Willis said he meant no real harm in using modified song lyrics describing the violent death of the president on myspace.com, a site popular with millions of young people as a place for personal expression.

“Even though I don’t like the president and I don’t like his policies … I don’t want to hurt anybody,” he said. “I’m very peaceable. I don’t desire any conflict or anything.”

Jamie Cousins, the Secret Service agent who paid a visit to Willis on March 7 at the college and carried off his computer, said he couldn’t talk about the case.

“We don’t comment on any ongoing investigations,” Cousins said.

Willis said he made the post in late February as a response to a posting about Bush by a friend, who also had his computer seized. Willis said he took the lyrics from “Bullet,” a song recorded by The Misfits in the late 1970s, and replaced the references to President Kennedy with President Bush.

On March 6, a Secret Service agent left a note in the mailbox of his Newton home asking him to call, Willis said. The teen’s mother then called him at Mars Hill to relay the message, and Willis called the agent.

“He said he needed to talk to me because I threatened the president,” Willis said. “At the time I didn’t think I was threatening the president. It’s just lyrics to a song.”

The next day he met with Cousins at the college and signed papers agreeing to turn over his computer.

“He asked me if I was a member of any organizations, and I told him I was in the Boy Scouts and got my Eagle Scout,” he said. The agent also asked him if he was aware of any plots to overthrow the government, and told him the First Amendment doesn’t protect threats to the president, Willis said.

Dan Lunsford, president of Mars Hill College, said he doesn’t know much about the matter.

“The only thing I would be able to say is we certainly will look into the case and we will cooperate with law enforcement officials,” he said. “But we certainly want to protect our students’ rights as well.”


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