Alaska illustrator faces charge for anti-trans threat

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) – A court hearing is set for Tuesday for an Alaska children’s book illustrator charged with terroristic threatening after authorities said he posted transphobic notes in public places around the capital city that referenced shooting children.

Mitchell Thomas Watley, 47, is scheduled for a late-afternoon preliminary hearing. The state’s online court records system does not yet show an attorney who can speak on his behalf.

Watley is accused of leaving business card-size notes in places like a grocery store and state office building 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 on April 2, after several notes were found at a Costco store 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 on March 31, the International Transgender Day of Visibility. That prompted heightened security around local schools.

“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 shooting at a Christian school 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 used 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 will discontinue selling their book store operators in Juneau also pulled Watley’s works.

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