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Man suspected of threats faces weapons charge

Associated Press Modified: September 19, 2012 at 9:01 pm •  Published: September 19, 2012

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Rants, racist remarks and menacing words permeate the Internet these days, so why did police decide to arrest a Yale dropout for investigation of making online death threats against children and initially hold him on a bail amount usually reserved for suspected killers?

Authorities said they considered several factors in the case against 21-year-old Eric Yee, who was arrested this week after commenting about a story on ESPN's website about the cost of new Nike sneakers named after LeBron James.

Authorities claimed Yee said he wouldn't mind killing children, and that there were unregistered weapons in the Valencia, Calif., house he shares with his parents that overlooks two schools.

Yee was charged Wednesday with a single count of possessing an illegal firearm, and his arraignment was postponed until Oct. 16, district attorney spokeswoman Jane Robison said.

Prosecutors initially held Yee on $1 million bail, which was reduced to $100,000 at a hearing. It wasn't immediately clear if prosecutors would still pursue the threat allegation.

Yee's father, Roger Manfoo Yee, 62, also was charged with possessing an illegal firearm. Robison said he had not been arrested.

Prosecutors described the firearm in question as an H&K M-94 assault weapon.

The Yees' lawyer David Wallin said the weapon was bought by Roger Yee 27 years ago when it was legal to own, and had never been fired. Eric Yee didn't even know his father owned such a weapon, said Wallin.

"(Eric) happened to be in a house with a weapon that he never touched, never fired and never even knew was there," Wallin said.

ESPN is based in Connecticut, where a worker told police about the online threat posting. Authorities said it also referred to a shooting that would be like the one in Aurora, Colo., where 12 people were killed and 58 others injured during a screening of the latest Batman movie.

Arresting Eric Yee and initially imposing the steep bail was a sign of how seriously investigators in the digital age are taking threats that could escalate, Los Angeles County sheriff's Lt. Steve Low said.

"These cases are not always cut and dry," said Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office in Los Angeles that files less than 10 threat cases a year. "While there are challenges, we have to be vigilant because people sometimes follow through on these threats."

Some of the nearly 3,000 reader comments on the ESPN website talked about children possibly getting killed over the expensive sneakers. Eric Yee posted that he was watching children and wouldn't mind killing them, authorities said.

Wallin said Eric Yee was simply trying to give his social and political commentary on shoes that cost $270 and was paraphrasing from the movie "American Psycho."

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