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[whitespace] Scot Free? Former UCSC student Michael Scott in a 1996 photo, before going to graduate school in Australia. It was about this time that his political views took a radical turn to the right.

Photo courtesy of James Scott

Rage Against the Machine

Former UCSC student Michael Scott is a self-described racist and Timothy McVeigh sympathizer. His ex-girlfriend claims he harassed her for years, but it wasn't until Scott allegedly threatened the lives of his father and others that he was arrested. Was Scott just shooting off his mouth, or was tragedy averted?

By John Yewell

WHEN MICHAEL SCOTT got the early morning phone call July 14, he reacted with his usual bravado.
"The FBI just called and I have to go down to their office in town for a few minutes after one [1:00]," he wrote in an electronic bulletin board posting to friends. "Oh, goody, goody! I haven't even done anything lately!"

But he had done something, something quite horrible. And it may cost him his freedom for many years to come.

Scott had other reasons to be dismissive of the summons. He had gotten a similar request from the FBI almost exactly a year earlier and had reacted in the same fashion. "The FBI called and wants me to come down to their office today," he told his bulletin board friends on July 12, 1999. "I haven't even done anything really awful recently. This isn't fair." Returning from the meeting, he wrote: "Well, that wasn't too bad. We talked for about an hour with the result that I am not going to be arrested and deported. I think. I need a drink."

Again, Michael Scott had done something. That tête-à-tête had been meant as a warning--which Michael Scott chose not to heed.

Now, a year later, he would not be so lucky. This time when Scott walked into the FBI's Colorado Springs field office, he was immediately arrested. Agents then accompanied him back to his home to conduct a search, where they found some 80 weapons and 40,000 rounds of ammunition.

The horrible thing he had done, which had not seemed so bad to him, was allegedly threaten to kill his father, stepmother, stepsister, a former university professor and FBI agents, as well as attempt to extort $400,000 from his father. Considered a serious flight risk and a danger to others, Scott is being held without bail--ironically, in a federal detention center in Littleton, Colo., not far from Columbine High School. He has been charged by the U.S. Attorney's Office with 28 federal counts of extortion and communicating threats to do harm, and faces up to 270 years in prison and $7 million in fines. No trial date has been set.

Scott does not have internet access in prison, but in an Aug. 16 posting on the bulletin board sent via a friend, Scott wrote: "The shrink here has me on antidepressants, which is a good thing, overall. ... My lawyer says the charges are crap; I'll probably get off with court-ordered psychiatric care."

Reality Bites

BETWEEN THE FALL OF 1984 and spring of 1989, Michael Christopher Scott majored in chemistry (with a minor in history) at Crown College, UC&-Santa Cruz. His relationship with fellow student Deirdre des Jardins and her accusations of "cyberstalking" by Scott were the subject of a Nov. 10, 1999 story in Metro Santa Cruz. That story recounts how des Jardins and Scott lived together until she left him in 1989 after he threatened to kill her ex-boyfriend.

Des Jardins believes that Scott's electronic bulletin board postings after their breakup (on a system originally operated through UCSC) constituted harassment. She has accused UCSC officials of ignoring that threat and taking no action against Scott. She attempted to file a grievance against the university with the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights, but the department rejected the grievance, claiming that a review of her concerns was already underway on campus--although des Jardins says the premise of the grievance was, in her opinion, the inadequacy of the on-campus review itself.

Many of Scott's emails--excerpts of which are contained in the 28-count federal indictment--and bulletin board postings were standard libertarian gun-nut fare, but some went much further. Many postings involved detailed rape fantasies, animal mutilations and violence against people who had crossed him. "If you fuck with me," he wrote des Jardins late in 1996, "I will fuck with you." To a fearful des Jardins, the repeated, detailed fantasies over an 11-year period felt personal.

Scott's defenders on the bulletin board accuse des Jardins of being an equal participant in a cyberspace "flame war," and it is true that much of Scott's vitriol was not aimed exclusively at des Jardins. His descriptions of violence were cast broad and unchecked, his thirst for confrontation insatiable. As one bulletin board observer noted:

"Carnivore [Scott's screen name] doesn't want to be left alone. ... He loves the fleeting feelings of persecution and martyrdom he gets from pushing the boundaries of dialogue and harassment to their most absurd limits."

In a letter to des Jardins dated Aug. 31, 1998, university police chief Jan Tepper wrote that while the subject matter in Scott's bulletin board postings may have been offensive, "no crime has been committed, and there is no legal action that we can take at this time." Tepper did not return a call requesting comment for this story, but federal prosecutors in Colorado agree. Since Michael's arrest, des Jardins has been in contact with authorities in Denver, but they have declined to add to the charges against Scott based on his communications with des Jardins.

Nevertheless, des Jardins feels vindicated about trying to get the attention of officials, and she wonders why it took more than three years for anyone to act. "When I sent [UCSC] a letter [in March 1997] saying I thought he was going to kill somebody, they should have looked at that a lot more seriously back then."

Crimeless Victim: Mike Scott's ex-girlfriend, Dierdre des Jardins saw his bulletin board rants as threatening, although officials agree there was probably nothing illegal about them.

Photo by George Sakkestad

Troubled Brilliance

MICHAEL Christopher Scott was born in 1966 to James and Carol Scott. From 1971 to 1993, James Scott was a professor of physics at the University of Colorado, Boulder, while Carol Scott (who declined to be interviewed for this story) became an officer in a Boulder bank. In an email for this story, James Scott describes the family as "stable, middle-class [and] academic." The couple divorced when Mike was 15.

In tracing Mike Scott's mental trajectory, things quickly get muddled. He claims repeatedly in postings that he was an abused child. "He [father James] got pissed at me once for not making a sound while he was hitting me," Mike wrote to the bulletin board a few days after his first encounter with the FBI in July 1999. "He's a coward, too."

His father denies this. "Mike was not abused at home," the elder Scott writes. "Neither his mother nor I spanked him." Rather, he says, Mike was bullied at school. The theme of confronting bullies and wreaking revenge comes up repeatedly in Michael's postings.

But the real turning point, claims James Scott, came at UCSC.

"Mike reacted strongly against the radical Left at Santa Cruz," writes Prof. Scott, who describes his own politics as middle of the road, "and became as politically incorrect as possible." Many years later, following Timothy McVeigh's arrest for blowing up the federal building in Oklahoma City, Michael Scott wrote to the bulletin board: "I could acquit Timothy McVeigh in a heartbeat and give him another truckload of dynamite."

After graduation from UCSC and the breakup with des Jardins in 1989, Mike attended graduate school in Boulder at the University of Colorado. After two semesters, according to his father, Mike's grades forced him to drop out. Afterward, Scott went to work as an organic chemist at Symetrix, a Colorado Springs firm co-founded by his father that produces computer memory chips for mobile phones.

His father describes his first two years of work as "spectacular," resulting in some 40 patents with 30 more applications pending. But Michael Scott was troubled. In a 1994 bulletin board posting, he described wanting to beat his father to death with a baseball bat. In 1995, he was convicted in Colorado Springs of firing a weapon --a scoped BB gun, according to roommate Chris Rowe--out the window of his home.

By 1996, Scott, a licensed gun collector and self-described "selective racist," had a growing arsenal and increasingly anti-societal frame of mind. He wrote to the bulletin board: "Over the last week, I have reached a plateau. Nothing else, from anyone, ever. Not the BATF [Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms], the IRS, the fuckers at work, the lezbo-fuckhead-liberal-commie shitbrained fuckers, nobody. I get to do whatever I damned well want as long as it doesn't hurt anyone. Anyone who has a problem with that gets shot."

That same year, James Scott says, Michael's relations with his superiors and co-workers at Symetrix soured.

James Scott, Symetrix's chairman of the board, writes that the FBI told him recently that Michael had threatened to kill members of Symetrix executives' families; that the employees remain terrified of his son and have refused to testify in his upcoming trial; and that a deal was cut to keep him out of the office.

The assertion is difficult to substantiate, because Symetrix employees have declined to speak to the press, and a Colorado Springs police spokesman says there is no record of an arrest in connection with the alleged threats. Furthermore, Michael's license to collect guns was not revoked. What is known--Michael Scott confirms it in a bulletin board posting--is that Michael cut a deal with Symetrix to be paid $3,300 a month without having to come to work.

"I can do whatever I want, all day long, and I still get paid," he gloated in a Feb., 5, 1999 posting.

Chilly Reception

LATE IN 1996, James Scott says he suggested to Michael that he apply to graduate school at the University of New South Wales, in Sydney, Australia, where the elder Scott was then a professor of physics and dean of science. Michael was accepted, arriving in March 1997 for the fall semester.

About this time, Deirdre des Jardins contacted the FBI in Colorado Springs, complaining of Michael's implied threats--although she says she was unaware of the later FBI investigation that resulted in Michael Scott's arrest. It was also the beginning of des Jardins' long struggle with UCSC campus authorities to do something about Michael's postings on the campus bulletin board system. (The bulletin board operation was eventually moved off-campus.)

Within a year, Michael found himself in trouble again, this time with his UNSW thesis adviser, Dr. Robert Lamb, and a postdoctoral fellow named Dr. Andreas Hartmann.

"I got a grand harshing [sic] by a post-doc at my talk earlier today," he wrote to the bulletin board on Feb. 13, 1998, "so I used one of my lecture props on him [presumably Hartmann]; I threw a 3-gallon bucket of water on him! ... I really love being alive, at a time like this."

About two weeks later, after an argument with Lamb, Michael wrote that he "picked [a] hamburger out of the trash and rubbed it in his face and hair."

About June 1, 1998, Michael Scott left the UNSW to return to Colorado, where he got a very chilly reception.

According to Michael's postings to the bulletin board, some Symetrix employees threatened to quit if he came back to the firm--Scott mentioned ill will over his continuing to be paid for not working, even as a round of layoffs hit the firm just as Scott was returning from Australia. Michael and his father confirm that the monthly payments had continued while he was in Australia, ostensibly in order to support his Ph.D. research.

Meanwhile, back at the UNSW, an academic review was underway that would lead to the final chapter and Michael Scott's arrest.

I Hate Other People

ON MAY 17, 1999, Michael Scott informed the bulletin board that the University of New South Wales had threatened disciplinary action against him. In a posting three days later, he suggested that his academic career wasn't the only thing he was about to lose: "I lost a good job and the woman I wanted to marry," he lamented.

In a June 19 email to his thesis adviser, Dr. Lamb, Michael Scott finally went over the edge. "I intend to kill Andreas," he wrote. Both Hartmann and Lamb declined to respond to emails requesting comment.

According to James Scott, Hartmann contacted the university registrar, who contacted the Australian federal police, who in turn contacted James Scott, asking if he felt his son's comment was a prank or was serious. James Scott said he felt the threat was serious, then spoke with agents at the FBI field office in Canberra, the Australian capital. They, in turn, contacted FBI officials in Colorado Springs.

On June 22, after being informed that he would have to leave the UNSW, Michael Scott emailed Dr. Hartmann.

"I have been invited to leave UNSW," he wrote, "and I will kill you the next time I see you."

Michael Scott's rage built, yet he wrote like a man impervious to the legal system. "I hate other people and want to hurt them," he wrote to his father June 26, "and I am happy being that way."

James Scott says that when FBI agents interviewed his son on July 12, 1999, they revealed details that could only have come from James. "The reaction was immediate," James Scott wrote to this reporter. "Mike emailed me a threat and said that now he knew where the FBI had found out about him and his earlier episodes."

In a July 16 bulletin board posting, Michael wrote: "I'd beat my dad to death, I'd make it take a really long time."

That September, James Scott accepted a position at Cambridge University in England, moving there with his second wife and teenage daughter. Michael's threats continued.

Sept. 23: "I HATE you. I wish I'd never been fucking born. Do you know that other people actually had fathers who were nice to them? I am going to kill you, in the most extremely brutal manner I can manage. Then I am going to eat your flesh. ... Send the FBI ... they won't be walking out of here. Before they die, though, I'm going to play with them."

By the end of October, the alleged extortion demands had begun. Metro Santa Cruz's article appeared Nov. 10.

Around Christmas time, James Scott says Michael had ratcheted things up yet another notch. "Mike began sending sadistic threats of death and rape to me and my daughter at her school email site." One such alleged threat was quoted in the indictment:

"I still expect the $400 grand," he wrote last March 27. "I am going after [his daughter] and Galya [James Scott's wife] if I don't get it in your will. I am going to rape them and kill them. I want my money, and you won't live forever." Similar emails followed.

Although James Scott says his wife Galya's views of the matter "differ" from his, he then contacted the local English police, who contacted the FBI at its London office. On July 14, agents in Colorado Springs invited Michael Scott to their office for a talk.

Out of Place

CHRIS ROWE SAYS he has known Michael Scott for three and half years, becoming his roommate about a month before Michael's arrest. Rowe says he has been communicating with Scott since the arrest, and that Scott's mother has visited him weekly since his arrest. Rowe and Scott share an interest in World War II memorabilia.

"When I found out he had been arrested I was blown off my feet," Rowe says. "I thought it was a problem with his C&R [Curios and Relics] license."

He says Mike hasn't talked about the charges. Mostly, says Rowe, Mike feels out of place, that he doesn't belong with the biker gang members and others he's sharing his cell with. When asked about Mike's political views, Rowe says he is unaware of Scott's opinions.

"I don't know if that's his political ideology or not. There are things I might not know about." Like a good roommate, Rowe says, "I avoided getting involved in his personal affairs," adding that Scott "never talked like he wrote.

"I know what the charges are. I think he was just shooting off his mouth and got nailed. I don't think he would have followed through. ... Mike's not a recluse, not in that spooky way they say about a guy who goes nuts--that he 'kept to himself,' etc."

As for Scott's relationship with his father, Rowe says his roommate didn't talk about it much. "I know he had some problems. It seems he [James] was not the greatest guy, but I don't know if he was abusive."

James Scott does not claim to have been a model father. "I'm sure I am partly to blame," James Scott writes. "I think of myself as rather rude and abrasive, and that may not have been helpful to Mike." But something more immediate concerned him.

"My worry about Mike ... was that he would become the next Unabomber. I needed to prevent this. I would not like my contribution in life to be summed up as 'Father of the Unabomber' [Ted Kaczynski]. ... I believed someone in Colorado was going to be murdered soon. I still worry that he will kill someone as soon as he is released."

Deirdre des Jardins, unsurprisingly, agrees. "I had always felt that this person was about to go postal and kill a lot of people, and I'm relieved that he's in custody. They acted just in time to prevent a real tragedy."

After Mike Scott's arrest, some members of Scott's cyber community continued to defend him. One woman, queried by Metro Santa Cruz, said her view of Scott is "unchanged." Not all agree.

"I won't miss him here [on the bulletin board]," wrote one bulletin board regular July 23, nine days after Scott's arrest. "I welcome this respite from his crap. I don't know how many times I wanted to ditch forum altogether. ... Hopefully, he'll learn something from this. But frankly, all I ask is he learns how to shut up."

Scott, meanwhile, acts unconcerned. "I'm not worried about court," he posted Aug. 16. "I feel sorry about what this is doing to my mother. This will be something else to laugh about next year."

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From the August 30-September 6, 2000 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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