A Franklin County judge ruled Thursday that the Union man accused of threatening to kill a college student and to “release a spitfire of hell” on the campus of Maryville University in St. Louis can remove the GPS tracking device he has had to wear since posting bond in May.
Attorneys for Ben Poinsett requested the change, saying their client has worn the device for six months without issues.
“The GPS monitoring is expensive, and the defendant is innocent until proven guilty,” attorney Dan Leslie wrote in a memo to the court. In his ruling, Judge Gael Wood said all other conditions of Poinsett’s bond remain in place, including that he must have someone with him whenever he leaves his home.
The ruling came despite objections from Franklin County Prosecutor Matthew Becker and the unidentified college student’s attorney. The identity of the woman is not being released by law enforcement officials.
“We objected to the removal of the GPS tracker because of the very serious nature of the threats made against the university and to this young woman. We feel very strongly that given the circumstances, requiring him to wear a GPS device is not an unreasonable request,” Becker said.
Poinsett, 45, was arrested last year after prosecutors say he harassed the unidentified woman from two false email accounts, including with sexually explicit messages. These emails lasted for several months, despite the woman asking for the emails to stop.
Later, police allege that Poinsett created a false Facebook account using a fabricated female name. Using this account, Poinsett continued his barrage.
In a message on May 13, 2021, Poinsett reportedly stated that he had photos of the victim, that he knew that she was a student at Maryville University in St. Louis and that “he would keep his eye out for (her) and one day confront (her) ... and will deal harshly with her.”
Poinsett, according to court documents, wrote to the victim, “Maybe it is time for another mass shooting because of the false religion you spread. ... Believe me I have the weapons and the ammo to release a spitfire of hell,” according to the police report.
Members of the Union Police Department said Poinsett confessed that he was the author of the emails and the Facebook messages, exactly as they were reported and handed over to the police by the victim. He said he initiated contact with her “due to his years-long infatuation, going back to when she was a young juvenile.”
Police said he told them that he made the threats against Maryville University with the intention of “scaring her.” Campus officials did not return The Missourian’s calls for comment on this story.
Franklin County Prosecutors have charged Poinsett with one count of first-degree harassment and one count of second-degree making a terrorist threat.
He is scheduled to appear in court on March 10 for a preliminary hearing, where a judge will determine if there is enough evidence that Poinsett committed these crimes for the case to be referred to the Franklin County Circuit Court.