IL Case Hinges on Difference Between Terrorist Threat and Rap Lyrics

A former college student in Illinois is accused of making terrorist threats that he claims were rap lyrics. The message was found on a piece of paper inside his impounded vehicle and led to his arrest. After years of legal motions, the case is getting ready to go to trial.


In 2007, Olutosin Oduwole was a student at Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville when his car was designated abandoned and impounded by campus police. The campus cops found the following note somewhere in the car: “Send $2 to PayPal account. 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 Virginia Tech massacre had taken place earlier that year. Adding to suspicions, at the time of his arrest the police were investigating his alleged attempts to buy and sell guns on the internet. Oduwole was charged with a felony count of attempting to make a terrorist threat, punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

Oduwole’s defense claims he is an aspiring rapper, and the piece of paper and that his writings were just rap lyrics. They compare his words to Johnny Cash singing about shooting a man in Reno, just to watch him die, or Bob Marley singing about shooting the sheriff, but not the deputy. To bolster its case, they’ve hired a University of California professor who studies rap music to be an expert witness. The defense also argues the message was never was a threat because there’s no evidence the words found by police ever were shared. Through his online persona Tosin Potion, Oduwole has released music videos and sold T-shirts under the logo “This Is not A Joke!” which he claims regarded his music.

Jury selection focused on quizzing jurors about their taste in music and their feelings about rap in particular, as well as their familiarity with guns. Circuit Judge Richard Tognarelli, at the request of the defense attorneys, told jurors they should not hold Oduwole’s Nigerian family name against him. Opening statements are expected Wednesday and he trial is expected to last into next week. It is unclear whether the defendant will be allowed to perform his alleged lyrics in court.

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