BOSTON — A
Mukilteo high-school graduate accused of making a bomb threat to get out of a final exam at Harvard University was under a great deal of pressure and seems remorseful, his lawyer said Wednesday after his client was freed on bail.
Eldo Kim, 20, was released on $100,000 bond into the custody of his sister, who lives in Massachusetts, and an uncle from North Carolina. Attorneys did not say where he will stay.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Boston alleges Kim sent hoax emails Monday saying shrapnel bombs would go off soon in two of four buildings on Harvard’s campus in Cambridge, Mass. The emails came minutes before he was to take a final exam in one of the buildings.
The buildings were shut down for hours before investigators determined there were no explosives.
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Federal public defender Ian Gold said Kim was dealing with finals and the third anniversary of his father’s death, which is this month.
“It’s finals time at Harvard,” Gold said. “In one way, we’re looking at the post-9/11 equivalent of pulling a fire alarm. Certainly I’m not saying the government response was unjustified, but it’s important to keep in mind we’re dealing with a 20-year-old man who was under a great deal of pressure.”
Kim attended Kamiak High School in Mukilteo, graduating in June 2012, Andy Muntz, a spokesman for the Mukilteo School District said Wednesday.
While there, Kim was a National Merit Scholarship finalist and participated on the tennis and debate teams, Muntz said. His debate coach, Steven Helman, declined to comment Wednesday.
Harvard said it was saddened by the allegations but would have no further comment on the investigation.
Alexander Ryjik, a junior from Alexandria, Va., was about to take his Politics of American Education final in Emerson Hall when alarms went off and he had to leave. He said Wednesday he was not surprised to hear that authorities believe a student is responsible for the hoax.
“At Harvard especially, people are scared to fail or do poorly, even a B. It just kind of reflects just how high-stress it is here,” he said. “If it is true that a student sent a bomb threat to prevent himself from taking a final, I think it’s sad that somebody would have to go to that length.”
Authorities said Kim told them he emailed the bomb threats about a half-hour before he was to take a final in Emerson Hall. He said he was there at 9 a.m. when he heard the alarm sound and knew his plan had worked, according to an FBI affidavit.
On Saturday night, Kim sent an email over his dorm Listserv, The Harvard Crimson reported.
An FBI affidavit says Harvard determined Kim had accessed TOR, a free product that assigns a temporary anonymous Internet protocol address, using the university’s wireless network.
The maximum penalties for a bomb hoax are five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, prosecutors said.
Kim became a naturalized U.S. citizen in fifth grade and renounced his South Korean citizenship, Gold said. Gold said Kim’s mother lives in South Korea.
A cached version of his LinkedIn profile, which has been taken down, indicates he did several internships in South Korea.
When he was in high school he volunteered at a monastery in Nepal, according to a testimonial he wrote on the volunteer organization’s website.
“I went into Nepal apprehensive and nervous,” Kim wrote, describing himself as an 18-year-old “rising senior” at Kamiak.
“But my worries were quickly put to rest when I arrived in Nepal,” he wrote. “No one sought to take advantage of the confused foreigner.”
As a sophomore at Kamiak, Kim was a National Peace Essay Contest winner with other students nationwide, a program sponsored by the federally funded United States Institute of Peace.
His contest biography described him as a member of varsity tennis and the swim team, as well as the debate team.
“Eldo is also a member of National Honor Society and tutors students in mathematics. He is enrolled in the Seattle Conservatory of Music and plays the viola,” the biography said.
Kim also was described as a voluntary research assistant for a professor at Korea University, and has assisted in the development of a model for public acceptance of the management of radioactive waste.
“During the summer of 2008, he traveled with fellow high-school students to Peru and rebuilt rural communities,” the biography said. “He enjoys writing and competing in sports. Eldo plans to major in Political Science and is excited for what the future holds in the coming years.”
Seattle Times staff reporters Steve Miletich and Jennifer Sullivan and news researcher Miyoko Wolf contributed to this story.