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Chicago man indicted in SIU beheading threat case

EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. — A Chicago man accused of mailing threats of beheadings, bombings and other violence to Southern Illinois University’s Carbondale campus is now facing fewer federal counts under a federal indictment than when he was first charged.

A grand jury on Wednesday accused 21-year-old Derrick Dawon Burns of four felony counts of willfully making a bomb threat. Each count is punishable by up to 10 years in prison and $250,000 in fines.

The indictment replaces a September criminal complaint that accused Burns of the four bomb-threat counts as well as four counts of making a threatening communication.

Jim Porter, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in southern Illinois, declined on Thursday to publicly discuss why Burns faces fewer charges, saying only that “we can’t talk about prosecutorial decisions at this time.”

Burns’ attorney, Jim Gomric, also declined to comment.

Investigators say most of the letters sent over a yearlong span in 2012 and 2013 suggested SIU would be targeted with violence ranging from rapes to beheadings, use of pipe bombs, shooting rampages, the unleashing of “deadly chemical powder” on unsuspecting students and arson. One of the mailings prompted the precautionary evacuation of the campus’ three dorms housing a combined 2,100 students.

“Give me $50 million or SIU is history,” one letter warned, according to the FBI.

The FBI has said fingerprint samples Burns supplied to investigators in August matched those found on four of the seven letters.

Burns remains jailed without bond and is tentatively scheduled to go on trial in December.