Steven Kennedy, a college student at the University of Kentucky, was accused of terroristic threatening after he emailed a photo of the Joker, the anarchist villain from "The Dark Knight," to a school official.
Kennedy emailed a photo of the "Dark Knight" Joker, played by actor Heath Ledger, to associate vice president Terry Allen after Allen did not respond to the 28-year-old's messages, WHAS 11 reported. Kennedy was reportedly annoyed at the dismissal of a discrimination complaint he had made against Allen.
Officials at the University of Kentucky viewed the email as a threat in the aftermath of the Aurora, Colo., shooting that left 12 dead and 58 injured at a premiere of "The Dark Knight Rises," the final installment in the Batman trilogy. James Holmes, the accused shooter, dyed his hair an orange color and reported told police that he was The Joker, leading law enforcement across the country to take any personification of the character seriously.
Kennedy was arrested on allegations of terroristic threatening and pleaded not guilty to the third-degree charges, according to Kentucky.com.
"With the recent shootings in Colorado, Mr. Allen fears that Kennedy means to do harm" to [Allen], the warrant said.
Kennedy has no prior criminal charges in Lexington, but he faced stalking and arson-related charges multiple times in 2004 and was convicted on one of the arson charges in Florida, Kentucky.com reported.
Don Evans, a former homicide detective, told WKYT that Allen's concern in this post-Aurora climate is understandable. "Pre-Aurora, sending a picture of the Joker or holding a playing card of the Joker probably wouldn't mean a lot or get anywhere to the level of terroristic threatening," Evans told WKYT, "but look, everybody's very sensitive to that right now, and it's certainly reasonable to conclude that that could be a threat."
Kennedy claimed that the photo of the Joker had been his profile photo before the Aurora shootings and that the whole thing is a misunderstanding.
"If the profile image was there prior to Aurora, and this is the profile image that this guy's had on all of his emails prior to Aurora, that's a different story," Evans added to WKYT, "but if that image was changed post-Aurora, or if he sent anything else with a picture of the Joker after what happened in Aurora, then that's another story."
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article stated that Kennedy has no prior criminal charges. This statement now reads "Kennedy has no prior criminal charges in Lexington." Kennedy does, however, have prior criminal charges in Alachua County, Fla., according to Kentucky.com.