Ex-University of Kentucky student pleads guilty in case involving Batman villain

jkegley@herald-leader.comJanuary 24, 2013 

Steven Kennedy, 29, shown in a court hearing in July, has pleaded guilty to harassment for sending an email with an image of the Batman villain the Joker to a University of Kentucky administrator. Kennedy originally was charged with terroristic threatening, a felony. Photo by Charles Bertram | Staff

CHARLES BERTRAM — Herald-Leader

A former University of Kentucky student who was accused of threatening a school official by sending him a picture of the Joker pleaded guilty to a lesser charge this month.

Steven Kennedy, 29, pleaded guilty Jan. 4 to harassment with no physical contact, a violation, according to court records. He was ordered to pay fines and fees totaling $254.

Kennedy did not return a Herald-Leader reporter's messages seeking comment Thursday. He previously has said the email was not a threat and his arrest was "retaliation" from university officials.

The former student initially was charged with third-degree terroristic threatening, a class A misdemeanor. He was arrested July 25 after he sent an email to UK associate vice president Terry Allen with the Joker's picture attached, according to court documents. Police said Kennedy was upset with university officials because a sexual harassment complaint he filed was not resolved to his satisfaction, according to Kennedy's arrest warrant.

The Joker is an anarchistic villain from the Batman comic books and films. School officials viewed the email as a threat because it was sent after a mass shooting at a Batman film premiere in Aurora, Colo., according to court documents.

The email was sent July 24, four days after the shooting at the midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises. The man charged in the Colorado shooting, which killed 12 and injured 58, dyed his hair red and reportedly called himself Joker.

"With the recent shootings in Colorado, Mr. Allen fears that Kennedy means to do harm" to him, investigators said in the warrant.

However, Kennedy denied that the Joker photo was intended as a threat in follow-up emails to Allen. Transcripts of the emails were filed in Kennedy's court file in Fayette District Court.

"The Joker image is just that — an image," he wrote to Allen. "It's not a threat. It's to honor the memory of a great piece of cinematic art and a fantastic movie."

"Any other interpretation is purely in your imagination," he added.

Kennedy is no longer a student at UK, spokeswoman Gail Hairston said. She said she could not elaborate on the circumstances of his departure.

Josh Kegley: (859) 231-3197. Twitter: @HLpublicsafety.

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