Academic Accused of Fake Threat Campaign Makes Amazing Admission to Court
A senior academic accused of sending a series of threatening letters in a fake self-harassment campaign has admitted that she wrote one of the notes.
Diane Jolie is on trial in Sydney’s Downing Center District Court, where she has pleaded not guilty to a long string of charges over a series of letters, notes and cards sent to herself and her colleagues at the University of Technology Sydney.
Jolie, 51, scored a significant victory on Monday when she was found not guilty on nine counts after Judge Ian Burke ordered a jury to acquit her of a range of charges.
It related to six counts of transmitting false information likely to cause a person to fear for their safety, as well as three counts of sending a letter to induce a false belief that the letter was likely to be dangerous.
She still faces 11 other counts – causing financial harm through deception and 10 counts of transmitting information likely to cause a person to fear for their safety – for which she pleaded not guilty.
Although she has pleaded not guilty, the former Dean of Science at the University of Technology Sydney admitted Monday to the jury that she was responsible for one of the letters discovered in a printer case in her UTS office in November 2019.
She told the jury that was the only letter she was responsible for, explaining that she was trying to get out of her $320,000-a-year contract after being exhausted by a series of real threatening letters and accidents by someone else.
The court heard that at the time, Ms. Jolie was trying to cut out the TCM course from the Faculty of Science but met resistance.
Ms Jolie said that when she took up her position at UTS in December 2018, the university was already considering cutting the course and was facing opposition from some members of the community.
She claims that the day before she printed the only letter she was in charge of, she overheard people talking about her and planning to get her out of her job.
“I sat there and started writing,” she said, “I didn’t know what I was going to write and I remembered the threat I had received the day before.”
So I started writing that.
“It was hard, I didn’t want to because I loved my job.
“I had to put my family first. I wrote it down, went to the printer, and collected the other notes I needed for the meeting.”
The letter read: “Diane. We removed Dean before and we can do it again. You do not belong here. You are not wanted here.”
“Either you leave or we will.”
She claimed that at that time she feared for her safety and the safety of her family, including her two children.
Ms Jolie explained that after reviewing her contract, she decided the only way out of her job was to face a misconduct charge, which could lead to her being fired.
CCTV – which was recently installed as an extra security measure after receiving a series of threats – has taken pictures of it printing the page.
But she has repeatedly said that she was “horrified” after receiving the other messages.
Crown claimed her fingerprint was found on one of the other letters, and she told a jury on Monday she was at a loss to explain how she got there.
“I didn’t do it, I didn’t do it,” she said.
“I don’t have an answer for that, I didn’t. I don’t know if it was really my fingerprint. I don’t know.”
As evidence, she said she was publicly confronted by angry members of the Chinese community before the harassment campaign began.
She said she received a handwritten letter in June 2019 in which the anonymous writer threatened to give her photo to the “Chinese Mafia”.
However, she ignored the message because she thought it was someone venting his anger, but the threats soon became more serious.
The first messages she was charged with were allegedly sent on July 31, 2019, and read: “Cut off our future, we’re cutting off your future.”
UTS paid the cost of installing CCTV in and around her office, and in her home, and was tasked with personal security details.
On Monday, she said, she was also told not to go shopping alone, to be escorted by a security guard on her train ride to and from work, told to stop running and to be given a personal alarm.
She claims that on one occasion she went to her backyard to find that someone had cut a puffer duck jacket that was hanging on a clothesline and left a note.
She also claimed that the unknown person stole a pair of her underwear and mailed them to her UTS office.
She said, “I felt violated, someone not only harassed me while I was going to and from work, but harassed me in my workplace, now they came to my house and it affected my family.”
“It was very difficult – I was very worried about the safety of my children.”
The trial continues before Judge Burke.