Attorney Says Statement By Former SAU Student Was Lapse In Judgment, Not Serious Threat

Friday, January 31, 2014

The attorney for James Michael Gaines said his statement at Chattanooga State that caused a lockdown at Southern Adventist University in Collegedale was a lapse in judgment, not a serious threat.

Attorney Lee Davis said, "Jimmy Gaines was enrolling in classes with Kesha Caldwell at Chattanooga State.  Jimmy was frustrated that his transcript was being held up at Southern Adventist University despite Jimmy having written a check to clear up a financial aid bill with the college.  When Kesha Caldwell told him that the enrollment deadline was near an end asked him whether he had done everything he could to get his transcript sent over from Southern Adventist University; he said, 'I have done everything I could except put a gun to their head.

'  This statement is a colloquialism.  It is an idiomatic expression that anyone who has ever dealt with a college bureaucracy or government agency can understand. It is not a threat against anyone and of course it was not a threat against Southern Adventist University.

"Perhaps it was stupid to say this, but this brief lapse of judgement was never intended as a threat to Southern Adventist University, Chattanooga State or anyone.  It was simply an unthinking expression made at the time to convey that Jimmy had exhausted every conceivable avenue to get his transcript to Chattanooga State.  There are far too many examples of violence in and around schools, and we all understand that any real threat needs to be fully investigated.  But we also know from experience that people say stupid things that sometimes can be misunderstood.  And that is what we have here, Lt. Robert Starnes of the Hamilton County Sheriff's Department misunderstood the frustrations of a young man trying to register for classes and because of that, Jimmy Gaines spent a night at the county jail and now is faced with a criminal charge.  We expect that a reviewing prosecutor will see this for what it is.

"The simple truth is that Jimmy was signing up for classes at Chatt State and was frustrated that Southern Adventist University has not released his transcript despite his having paid his bill. In frustration at their holding his transcript back, he made a stupid comment at Chattanooga State.  It was a joke and one that he immediately apologized for.  The clerk at Chatt State took it for a joke and reported it as such.

"How can we all know that this was not a serious threat?  Chatt State never locked down their campus and that was where Jimmy was at the time of the statement.  From there he went to the Taco Bell and then to work at the YMCA where he was arrested. He was taken to the Collegedale Police Department interrogated by local police, the Sheriff's department and the FBI. Despite his assurances that his short statement to Chatt State was a joke and again that he was terribly sorry, he was arrested and held overnight at the county jail. He was allowed to make bond the following day."

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