Hearing pushed back for Alaska illustrator on threat charge

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) – A court hearing was pushed back until next week for an Alaska children’s book illustrator charged with terroristic threatening after authorities said he posted around the capital city transphobic notes that referenced shooting children.

Mitchell Thomas Watley, 47, was scheduled for a preliminary hearing Tuesday, but Assistant District Attorney Rexene Finley asked that it be moved to April 21. She said she expected an indictment prior to that date. State District Court Judge Kirsten Swanson granted the request.

Watley’s attorney, Nick Polasky, declined comment to reporters. Watley spoke a few words in court, acknowledging that Swanson had pronounced his name correctly. Court records show his wife posted $10,000 bond in his case last week.

Watley is accused of leaving business card-size notes at a grocery store, state office building and a Costco with an image of an assault rifle, the colors of the transgender flag and the text “Feeling Cute Might Shoot Some Children,” according to the complaint filed in the case.

He was arrested April 2, after several notes were found at a Costco and officers reviewed security footage that showed a man, later identified as Watley, leaving a note in the store, the complaint alleged.

The first notes were found March 31, the International Transgender Day of Visibility. That prompted the school district and law enforcement agencies to take heightened security measures, according to the complaint. Police have also said that prior to the reports, there were plans for an additional police presence at schools “due to national rallies/attention to recent school violence incidents.”

“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,” according to the complaint.

The notes appeared during a period of increasingly hostile rhetoric, amid legislative proposals and laws targeting transgender people across the country. They were found days after a school shooting in Nashville that left six dead. Social media accounts and other sources indicate the shooter identified as a man. Police have said the shooter “was assigned female at birth” but used male pronouns on a social media profile. Police have continued using female pronouns to describe the shooter.

Watley is known for illustrating several children’s books written by his wife, including “I Would Tuck You In” and “You Are Home With Me.” Their publisher, Sasquatch Books, owned by Penguin Random House, last week said it has ended its publishing relationship with Watley and would discontinue selling their books. Several book sellers in Juneau also pulled Watley’s works.

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