A University of Kentucky student pleaded not guilty Thursday to terroristic threatening, a charge that resulted after he allegedly sent a picture of an archenemy of Batman to a university official.
Steven I. Kennedy, 28, allegedly emailed a photo of the Joker, an anarchist villain in movies and comic books, to associate vice president Terry Allen after Allen didn't return his messages. Kennedy allegedly was upset about the way officials handled a discrimination complaint, according to a warrant filed in Fayette District Court.
Officials viewed the email as a threat in light of the recent mass killing in Aurora, Colo., at a premiere showing of The Dark Knight Rises, the document said. The man charged in the Colorado shooting, in which 12 were killed and 58 injured, 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, the warrant said.
Kennedy pleaded not guilty to third-degree terroristic threatening, a misdemeanor. After an arraignment, he said the charge was "retaliation," but he declined to elaborate.
Kennedy, a senior political science major, has no prior criminal charges in Lexington. However, according to court records from Alachua County, Fla., Kennedy faced stalking and arson-related charges multiple times in 2004. He was convicted of one count of arson the following year.
According to the warrant in Fayette County, Kennedy had filed a discrimination complaint against personnel at UK. Terry handled the subsequent investigation.
"Kennedy's allegations were unfounded and Kennedy's case has been closed," the warrant said.
Kennedy "openly showed disdain" for the results of the investigation and began sending emails to UK officials, it said. On July 24, he sent Allen an email asking why no one was responding to his emails, according to the warrant.
"Kennedy then sent Mr. Allen a picture of the Joker from the Batman movie, and the Joker is holding a playing card and smiling," the document said.
Jay Blanton, a spokesman for the university, said the investigation was continuing, but he declined to comment further on the charges. He addressed the student's allegations that the discrimination complaint was improperly handled.
"The university takes very seriously any allegation of discrimination. Such allegations are fully investigated and, as needed, appropriate action is taken," he said in an email.
Kennedy was booked at the Fayette County Detention Center on Wednesday morning. He was released on a $250 bond about 1 p.m. Wednesday.
He is scheduled to return to court Aug. 8.