Sex offender pleads guilty making threats against Howard University

A convicted sex offender from the Richmond Highway area pleaded guilty Tuesday to charges of threatening to kill black students at Howard University in 2015.

John Edgar Rust, 26, pleaded guilty in federal court to transmission in interstate commerce of a communication containing threats to injure the person of another. He will be sentenced in July and faces a maximum of five years in prison, according to a Justice Department press release. The actual sentence is likely to be less than five years; the Justice Department noted that sentences for federal crimes are typically shorter than the maximum penalties.

John Rust mugshot

John Rust (Virginia Sex Offender Registry)

Federal prosecutors say that Rust, a resident of the Burgundy Village neighborhood, made the threats from the Panera in the Beacon Center on Richmond Highway on Nov. 11, 2015. Investigators said that Rust’s laptop and phone were both connected to the internet at the restaurant, and that his credit car showed also showed a purchase there.

In the threat, Rust claimed he would kill black students on the Howard campus if they were still there at a certain time. The slur-ridden threat was posted to an internet message board and then shared on Reddit, according to an affidavit posted by the Justice Department.

“Sometimes the best thing to do is to put stupid out of its misery,” Rust wrote at the end of the threat. “After all, it’s not murder if they’re black.”

An almost identical version of the threat was also found on Rust’s laptop, according to the FBI’s affidavit. 

Rust is a registered sex offender, having been convicted of indecent liberties with a child by custodian and aggravated sexual battery in 2012.  He was on probation at the time of the threats against Howard.