Kenton County prosecutor Rob Sanders says his office is close to filing charges against the people who made terroristic threats against Covington Catholic High School students after an incident with protesters in Washington, D.C., last month.
Sanders told WLWT5 Tuesday that the first of these cases could come before a grand jury in the next two to three weeks.
The students were falsely accused of mocking Native American activist Nathan Phillips outside the Lincoln Memorial after the March for Life on January 18, spurring a frenzy that resulted in threats coming from across the country. Tens of thousands of hateful e-mails, calls, and Facebook and Twitter messages forced the school to cancel classes and activities for a couple of days the following week. Incredibly, the family of Nicholas Sandmann, the student at the center of the viral video, was forced to briefly go into hiding.
Amid the initial media firestorm, officials at the high school and the Covington Archdiocese condemned the boys, but after an independent investigation found that they had done nothing wrong, the school and the diocese reversed their decision. Meanwhile, lawyers for the Sandmann family launched a $250,000 lawsuit against the Washington Post and said more lawsuits are likely on the way.
Sanders said he’s never dealt with anything quite like the online mob that targeted the Covington kids. He read aloud one message that he said could be considered a direct threat: “Your son will now be six feet under.”
Sanders noted that hate speech may not be illegal, but direct threats are.
Other threats run the gamut. “‘Shoot the kids,’ ‘beat up the kids,’ ‘punch the kids in the face,’ ‘punch the kids in other parts of their body,” we’ve got ‘lock them in the school and burn down the school,’ ‘shoot up the school,’ ‘blow up the school,’ I mean, you name it,” Sanders said.
The prosecutor vowed to find the culprits and hold them accountable.
“Can you imagine what would happen if we blew off a threat and that person actually followed through? Somebody actually set the school on fire, somebody actually started taking shots at students as they left school?” he asked. “People would be outraged, and rightfully so.”
Sanders continued, “I counted [and] at one point, we had 13 different law enforcement agencies [involved in] some capacity.”
He said that there is one Park Hills police officer and one detective in his department working on the case and they could be close to filing charges and putting names and faces to the anonymous threats.
“We want them to know we’re coming for them. We want them to know what they’re doing is at least being investigated and there’s a chance at some point that the knock on your door is going to be a police officer,” Sanders said.
He told WLWT5 that the first grand jury hearing in the cases should happen in the next two to three weeks.