Alaskan charged for transphobic notes threatening students

Apr 4, 2023, 10:31 AM

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — A children’s book illustrator has been charged in Alaska with terroristic threatening after police allege he posted anti-transgender notes that referenced shooting children.

Mitchell Thomas Watley, 47, did not enter a plea to the felony charge during his first court appearance Monday, the Juneau Empire reported. A preliminary hearing was scheduled for April 11.

Watley is accused of placing notes in several public locations across Juneau starting Friday, the International Day of Transgender Visibility. The notes were the size of a business card showing an assault rifle and the colors of the transgender flag, the complaint says. “Feeling Cute Might Shoot Some Children,” the text read.

Anti-transgender rhetoric and disinformation followed a mass shooting last week that killed six people at a Nashville Christian school. It came as lawmakers across the country engage in a historic push for more restrictions on trans people’s rights.

Authorities have not shared any evidence linking the shooter’s gender identity to the motive for the attack, which killed three children and three adults.

In Juneau, Alaska’s capital city, the first notes were found Friday in a grocery store and on a bulletin board at a state office building. Others were found Sunday in a Costco store.

“Officers spoke to Mitchell, who said (in essence) that he was in fear of the recent transgender school shooter and took it upon himself to print out and distribute these leaflets,” the complaint against Watley said.

Rexene Finley, the assistant district attorney, called the allegations against Watley serious. “Mr. Watley has targeted our most vulnerable populations,” Finley told the judge.

Juneau schools increased security after the first note was found Friday, and some parents kept their children home.

Police arrested Watley after reviewing security camera footage at Costco that included tracking him to a vehicle in the parking lot and tracing it to him.

Watley is known for illustrating three books, including “I Would Tuck You In” and “You Are Home With Me.”

Finley sought $10,000 bail and conditions including that Watley be ordered to stay away from where children gather, turn in any weapons and undergo a mental health exam.

Judge Kirsten Swanson agreed to the conditions after Watley’s attorney for the hearing, Nicholas Polasky, said he did not know if he would continue to represent Watley after Monday’s hearing.

“I don’t have a comment on it right now,” Polasky said.

If convicted of the felony, he could face up to five years in prison and a $50,000 fine.

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Alaskan charged for transphobic notes threatening students