A former Fresno State walk-on football player who made a threat on social media about doing a campus shooting “to release my frustration” was handcuffed in court Friday and sent to prison for an evaluation.
Overcome by nerves, Christian Malik Pryor, 19, became physically ill when Judge Dennis Peterson ordered a bailiff to handcuff him. His attorney, Sharon Applebaum, protested, saying that sending Pryor to prison was not part of a plea agreement that he had signed in July when he pleaded no contest to a felony charge of making a criminal threat.
Under the agreement, Pryor would not be sentenced to prison but could get up to 16 months in jail or probation.
But Peterson told Applebaum that he had the discretion to send Pryor to prison for the evaluation, which could take up to 90 days. The judge also told the lawyer that probation officials had recommended the evaluation in a report for Pryor’s sentencing hearing, so Applebaum should have anticipated the evaluation.
Once the evaluation is completed, Pryor will return to Superior Court for a sentencing hearing.
The threat, made anonymously on the messaging app Yik Yak, implied a campus shooting would occur Nov. 2 and sent a wave of fear across the Fresno State campus as it was reposted on other social media sites. The post included a photo of Henry Madden Library, a prominent feature in the center of the campus.
Pryor was arrested later that day in the Duncan Building in the center of Fresno State’s athletic complex. He later confessed to sending the post and has been remorseful about it, authorities said.
University officials said Pryor was a walk-on player who had yet to appear in a game. A wide receiver, he was the 2014 team MVP of his Locke High football team in Los Angeles, according to his Fresno State football biography.
University officials have said the online threat was a case of a young man making a bad decision and not an indication of a serious plan.
According to court records, one of Pryor’s social media posts read in part (original spelling retained): “the time is here. @3PM I will release my frustrations. Tired of dirty looks, get rejected, and being talked about bc how I dress. My choice of weapon M4 Carbine.”
A tweet at 1:12 p.m. from Pryor’s account, responding to another person’s concern, read: “it sounds like a joke but be safe.” The tweet was later deleted.
Once Fresno State officials learned of the threats, they used Twitter to notify faculty, students and staff.
After the incident, Pryor was expelled from all California State University campuses.
The evaluation is a tool used by courts to get an opinion from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation as to whether a defendant is a suitable candidate for probation. Once in prison, Pryor will be evaluated by a counselor and psychologist who will write a report to Peterson.
Pryor, who was free on $20,000 bail, went to court Friday with his parents. During the hearing, Applebaum, whose law firm is in Santa Monica, pleaded with Peterson to delay the evaluation and allow Pryor to remain free on bail until December so he could finish school in Southern California. (The lawyer did not identify the school).
Applebaum also argued that the felony charge should be reduced to a misdemeanor. In her argument, Applebaum said Pryor’s post was up for less than five minutes before he took it down, and that he has been remorseful ever since. She also noted that friends of Pryor and several Fresno State students had written letters of support.
“He had no intention to instill fear,” Applebaum said, noting that her client had enrolled in Fresno State on his “own merit” and not on an athletic scholarship.
“He is willing to do what he needs to do to be a contributing member of society,” Applebaum said, while pointing out that Pryor had no criminal record before the November incident and already has completed 70 hours of community service.
Prosecutor Karnig Panosian opposed the motion to reduce the charge, saying Pryor’s actions were reckless and dangerous.
“He set the community on high alert,” Panosian said. “Students had to be evacuated and classes had to be canceled.”
“Mr. Pryor should have known better,” the prosecutor said. “He did rescind the message, but by then it was too late.”
The judge never ruled on Applebaum’s motion to reduce the charge. Instead, Peterson focused on getting Pryor evaluated in prison, a move that upset Applebaum because she said Pryor already has been evaluated by a psychologist in Southern California. Applebaum told Peterson that the psychologist’s independent evaluation is frequently used by judges in Southern California.
But Peterson said he wanted Pryor to be evaluated by prison staff.