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Lawyer: Man in Violent Online Posts Just 'Dumb'

LOS ANGELES  — A 21-year-old man whose alleged Internet rant about killing children alarmed law enforcement authorities, leading them to knock down his door and arrest him, is being described by his own attorney as "just a dumb kid."

Authorities said they considered several factors in the case against 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.

"(Eric) is certainly socially inept at what is appropriate language nowadays because of Columbine and the Colorado theater shooting — you just can't say those things," said David Wallin, the attorney for Yee and his father. "He gets it now that he has slept three days in a jail on a quarter-inch mattress."

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.

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.

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."

"I could say this is felony stupid but he's not guilty of making criminal threats," Wallin said.

California law states that a person can be convicted of making a criminal threat — whether orally, in writing or by means of email or on the Internet — if someone takes it as a threat and even if the person doesn't intend to carry it out.

Investigators wouldn't say if there is any evidence that Eric Yee might act on the threat, but legal experts believe the bail amount was very high for a person suspected of the offense.

The presumptive bail for making a criminal or terrorist threat is $50,000, and it would take many specific circumstances to push it much higher, said Hanni Fakhoury, an attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation and a former federal public defender who is not involved in the case.

Wallin acknowledged there were two firearms in the home — a rifle and pistol — that belonged to Yee's father.

Sheriff's investigators said they were looking at several computers to see if Eric Yee had made any similar posts on the Internet. They also were working with police in Bristol, Conn., and Yale University, which said Yee was a student until he withdrew this May for undisclosed reasons.

Yale officials said he had been expected to graduate with a bachelor's degree in economics this past spring. A Yale website listed him as a member of its class of 2012 and a participant in a leadership training program.