EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. — Prosecutors had wanted to throw the book at Olutosin Oduwole, arguing that the aspiring rapper's note threatening a Virginia Tech-like killing spree while he attended a southwestern Illinois university justified a maximum 15-year prison sentence.
What Oduwole got last December was just five years behind bars. And by Illinois law he may be eligible for parole after serving half of that — perhaps even less, given that the judge credited the one-time student at Southern Illinois University's Edwardsville campus for time he was jailed awaiting trial.
In response, the state prosecutor behind Oduwole's prosecution now is pushing legislation that would require anyone convicted of threatening an act of terror to serve 85 percent of their prison time.
"The message our current sentencing provisions sends is that (the crime is) only half as serious as the judge says it was," said Madison County State's Attorney Tom Gibbons. "I think it's important that we in law enforcement, in service to the public, make it clear there are consequences to actions and that we are sending a message to someone who even considers an act of violence at a school that we're going to hammer them in the most serious of terms.
"I just don't think it's right. I think it's an injustice."
The legislation, House Bill 5121, unanimously sailed last month out of the House to the Senate, where it awaits action. The measure's House sponsor, Rep. Dan Beiser, doesn't expect the Senate to be any less responsive.
"Had (Oduwole's) plan come to fruition, I think we all can visualize the destruction, harm and loss of life that would have happened," said Beiser, an Alton Democrat. When it comes to the legislation, "I think it's easy to justify (having such defendants serve more of their time) if you think of the crime this potentially relates to."
Calling cases like Oduwole's "a pretty rare circumstance," Gibbons figures the measure would not compound an already festering problem with prison crowding in Illinois, where there are roughly 15,000 more inmates than the prisons were designed to accommodate.
Oduwole's lawyer, Jeffrey Urdangen, refused to comment because an appeal is pending in the case.
Jailed at western Illinois' Pittsfield work camp, Oduwole, 26, was sentenced last December. He started his prison term the following month and could be eligible for release in February 2014 after serving barely more than two years of his term.
Jurors convicted Oduwole of attempting to make a terrorist threat, a felony, involving a piece of paper police found in his car abandoned on the 13,000-student Southern Illinois University campus he was attending in 2007. The writing demanded payment to a PayPal account, threatening "if this account doesn't reach $50,000 in the next 7 days then a murderous rampage similar to the VT shooting will occur at another highly populated university. THIS IS NOT A JOKE!"
The VT was a reference to the Virginia Tech rampage, which just months before Oduwole's July 2007 arrest left 32 people dead along with the gunman. But Oduwole's writing did not make any direct reference to targeting the Edwardsville campus.
Even before the piece of paper was found in his car, Oduwole was being scrutinized by federal agents. A gun dealer had tipped them off earlier in the month that Oduwole appeared overly anxious to get four semiautomatic weapons — including an Uzi-like Mac 10 — that he had ordered.
Oduwole told the judge he "did not mean to incite fear," having maintained through his attorneys since his arrest that the questioned words were merely private thoughts, perhaps rap lyrics, and were never meant to be made public or shared.
Madison County Circuit Judge Richard Tognarelli didn't buy that.
"The jury found that this was not a song. They found it was a threat, and I do not disagree with them," the judge said.