FBI spent years searching for writer of racist, threatening letters before making arrest

Other News Materials 11 April 2008 05:05 (UTC +04:00)

(iht) - Authorities searched for years for the source of racially hateful letters, including one threatening to blow up the U.S. Supreme Court, before charging a suburban Cleveland man this week.

The FBI said Thursday that the letters dating to the late 1980s seemed to stop in the early 1990s but started again later that decade. Cleveland FBI agent Scott Wilson said investigators never stopped looking for the writer.

The federal government charged David Tuason, 46, in the case Wednesday. An indictment alleges he most often targeted black men who had relationships with white women. Letters and e-mails described in the charges contain threats based on racial hatred.

Donna Grill, an assistant public defender representing Tuason, would not comment on the case Thursday.

Tuason is unemployed and has lived at his parents' home in Pepper Pike, a mostly white, upscale Cleveland suburb, said William J. Edwards, acting U.S. attorney for northern Ohio.

No one answered at the door of the modest two-story house Thursday. A telephone message was left.

The Justice Department, closely guarding the victims' privacy, identified them by initials and race. All are black.

Supreme Court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg confirmed that Justice Clarence Thomas was threatened but declined to comment further. According to the indictment, Tuason sent a letter to the Supreme Court on July 25, 2003, addressed to an associate justice of the court referred to as "CT."

In the letter, which contained several racially derogatory remarks, the writer threatened to blow up the Supreme Court building, and wrote that "CT" would be "castrated, shot or set on fire ... I want him killed."

The threats Tuason is charged with making are mostly similar, promising physical violence against black males associated with white women.

Tuason was arrested March 14 following a search of his home. An FBI agent's affidavit listing the search inventory remained under seal Thursday, Edwards said.

Tuason appeared in U.S. District Court in Cleveland for a detention hearing March 21 and was ordered held without bond. His arraignment on charges of two counts of transmitting threatening interstate communications and six counts of mailing threatening communications is expected April 23, Edwards said.

Brian Koerbel, a deputy U.S. marshal in Cleveland, would not say where Tuason is jailed.

The charges refer only to letters and e-mails dating to 2003. A five-year statute of limitations prevented any charges for threatening communications beyond that time, Edwards said.

"The first letters started in 1988, and we know he was a student at Baldwin-Wallace College then," said Edwards, referring to Tuason's enrollment at the private college in the Cleveland suburb of Berea.

Tuason graduated with a biology degree in 1992, college spokesman George Richard said. He was a good student with no disciplinary problem, Richard said.

The case federal investigators made against Tuason developed recently, Edwards said, but he would not discuss how authorities may have traced e-mails or letters to Tuason.

A threatening letter was sent a year ago to a former Kent State women's basketball player who has since finished her graduate degree, athletic director Laing Kennedy said. Authorities told university officials on Wednesday of the indictment, he said.

A former Cleveland Cavaliers player and his family members were among others threatened, Edwards said.

According to the indictment, one of the letters referred to an "LN," mentions the Cavaliers and was sent last year to Revere High School in Richfield, where the daughter of former Cavaliers star Larry Nance is a student and accomplished athlete.

Cavaliers' spokesman Tad Carper had no comment Thursday.

Also targeted was a well-known black singer who performed at Cleveland's Severance Hall, home of the city's orchestra, about the time a February letter was sent, Edwards said.

The letter sent Feb. 4 was addressed to an "AJ," according to the indictment, and Grammy-award winning jazz and R&B artist Al Jarreau was on the venue's schedule on Feb. 8.

The FBI's Wilson said the threats began in Cleveland and branched out across the nation. He would not specify whether Tuason attempted to carry out attacks, but said he acted alone.