A Northern Kentucky University professor and six of her students have been charged April 26 with misdemeanors following the destruction of an anti-abortion display on campus April 12.
Dr. Sally Jacobsen, a literature and language professor, has been charged with theft by unlawful taking, criminal mischief and criminal solicitation, which refers to evidence that she encouraged the students to participate in the uprooting of the crosses. Six students involved with the cross removal were also charged with theft by unlawful taking and criminal mischief, according to Campbell County Attorney Justin Verst.
Additional students may be charged once their identities become known and can be verified, Verst said.
The theft charge, which is a class A misdemeanor, is punishable by a $500 fine and up to one year in jail. A person with criminal mischief or criminal solicitation charges, which are class B misdemeanors, can be sentenced to 90 days in jail and a $250 fine.
According to Verst, sentence severity depends on the criminal record and prior court history of an individual.
“Clean records are always potential for diversion,” he said. With diversion, charges are dropped if an individual successfully completes a treatment or rehabilitation program.
The hearing for Jacobsen and the students will be May 11.
Jacobsen’s attorney, Margo Grubbs of Fort Wright, Ky., was unavailable for comment.
Sophomore Katie Walker, president of Northern Right to Life, the group who created the original display, said she did not anticipate the situation escalating to criminal charges.
“I had no idea it was such a big deal,” she said. “I didn’t think it would come to what is has.”
Walker said Northern Right to Life did not initiate pressing charges against Jacobsen and the students, but rather, had “left it in the prosecuting attorney’s hands.”
Walker said she told Verst to keep in mind that the students were intimated and persuaded by a professor to uprooting the crosses.
“It’s fair that there will be repercussions for her actions,” Walker said of the charges against Jacobsen.
Since the unapproved removal of the almost 400 crosses, Jacobsen has been placed on a paid leave-of-absence for the remainder of the spring semester, after which she will retire.
In the weeks following the incident, pro-choice and pro-life students and faculty have created displays of their own with posters and wire hangers, handed out fliers with information on and held events centered around the topic of abortion.
Walker said though the original act was a silence of free speech, she’s happy now that NKU is having “productive disagreement without violence or criminal acts.”