Black student accused of sending hate mail at Ill. college

Authorities think suspect hoped to get transferred

April 27, 2005|By CHICAGO TRIBUNE

BANNOCKBURN, Ill. -A 19-year-old African-American student at Trinity International University has been charged with sending racially inflammatory hate mail to her classmates, prompting last week's evacuation of minority students from the suburban Chicago school.

Alicia Hardin of Chicago was charged with disorderly conduct and committing a hate crime in connection with threatening letters sent to other African-American students.

The letters were written in an attempt to persuade her parents to let her withdraw from Trinity, Lake County Assistant State's Attorney Matthew Chancey said. Hardin lived on the Bannockburn campus, was unhappy there and wanted to transfer to Jackson State University in Jackson, Miss., he said.

A letter that said the writer was carrying a gun prompted university officials and police to take the precautionary step of moving 43 students of color to a hotel Thursday night.

"By writing these notes, we believe, she wanted to have her mother believe [Trinity] was an unsafe environment," Chancey said.

The defendant told the judge she was taking anti-anxiety medication and had an arrest record from 1998 or 1999, when she was charged with battery and criminal damage to property.

Police said the woman was one of a number of students interviewed Monday by a task force of investigators from the Bannockburn Police Department, the FBI, campus security and police from three other Chicago suburbs. Hardin allegedly admitted writing the three letters that caused the uproar.

About 300 of the 1,100 undergraduate students at the Christian college are nonwhite. Many returned to campus Friday, but others stayed away until classes resumed Monday, officials said.

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