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CA Man Charged for Sending Racist E-mail; MIT Students Are Affected

By Jennifer Chung

Federal prosecutors filed civil rights charges on Jan. 28 against a California man who sent e-mail death threats to over 70 Hispanic people across the nation, including 25 students at MIT.

The e-mails, which were sent on March 7, 1998, were traced by federal officials and others to Kingman Quon of Corona, California.

The e-mail claimed that Hispanics are in college because of affirmative action, and repeatedly threatened the life of the recipient.

"In addition to threatening the recipients, the e-mails contained racial assaults on Hispanics," according to a press release issued by the United States Attorney's Office in Los Angeles.

Federal authorities began investigating the case when a faculty member at California State University at Los Angeles contacted the Federal Bureau of Investigation within an hour of receiving the e-mail, according to United States Attorney Central District of California Public Affairs Officer Thom Mrozek.

"The FBI were brought in the same day the e-mails were sent out," Mrozek said. In addition to the FBI, the United States Commission on Civil Rights was also contacted.

During the investigation, the FBI contacted and served subpoenas on a number of Internet serviceproviders to obtain information about the sender of the e-mails, Mrozek said. Officials were then able to trace the e-mails to the computer that sent the messages, and later, identify Quon as the sender.

"We believe that [Quon] primarily found the names on web sites for various institutions,"he said. Employees of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Indiana University, the Xerox Corporation, the Texas Hispanic Journal, and the Internal Revenue Service also received e-mails.

Quon has agreed to plead guilty to seven counts of violating constitutionally protected rights at his arraignment this Monday. The maximum possible sentence is seven years in a federal prison, according to a press release by the

This is the nation's second federal case to involve an Internet hate crime.

MIT students outraged at e-mails

When Quon sent the e-mails last spring, recipients of the e-mail, as well as the MITHispanic community, were shocked.

"At first, Ijust thought it was a prank,"said one e-mail recipient, who wished to remain anonymous. After reading further, however, it appeared "too destructive to be a prank," the recipient said. "I was kind of surprised." The victim described the e-mail as "rather insulting."

"There was some discontent, and some people were just outraged that they were getting such e-mails at a place like MIT, where one's brain matter is supposed to matter more than their ethnicity or nationality,"said Andrs Elenes '00, president of La Unin Chicana por Aztln.

According to Elenes, some students talked to the Office of the Dean of Students and Undergraduate Education. However, several deans "just told us that they would do their best to look into the problem, but more than likely nothing was going to come of it," he said.

Members of LUChA discussed the incident with each other at meetings.

"We were upset that someone actually had enough anger inside of him to do what he did," Elenes said.

"We all have stories of more subtle acts, not as blunt or as frank as the e-mail in question," he said.

"You aren't surprised that it happened, you just get upset that it actually happened, and to you," he said.

The Office of Counseling and Support Services, a division of ODSUE, makes sure that students are aware of what options they have, and refers students to other institute departments based on what course of action a student wishes to take, said Associate Dean and Head of Counseling & Support Services Arnold R. Henderson.

"We don't do discipline because it's contrary" to the philosophy of counseling division, Henderson said. Discipline, however, is available through other groups.

"Any time a student feels harassed to the level that compromises the ability to pursue goals, you have the right to seek redress with appropriate mechanisms," said Leo Osgood, associate dean and director of the Office of Minority Education. In a case like this, "I would review the contents of the e-mail and then ask the student what they wanted to do, and then explain the mechanism," he said.