Bond at $500,000 in attack on UI professor

Bond at $500,000 in attack on UI professor

UPDATED 2:30 p.m. Thursday

URBANA - Bond was set at $500,000 Thursday for a Fithian man accused of slashing the throat of a University of Illinois law professor.

Joshua Scaggs, 23, was arraigned via video connection on Thursday afternoon in the case. He appeared wearing an anti-suicide gown and surrounded by correctional officers. Using profanity, he told attorney Baku Patel of Urbana that he was fired. His mother and stepfather were in the courtroom.

Scaggs has been charged with attempted murder and two counts of aggravated battery, alleging he slashed the throat of Anurudha Udeni Dhammika Dharmapala, 41, of Champaign at the Illinois Terminal on Wednesday morning. He is a professor at the University of Illinois College of Law specializing in law and economics, tax policy, public economy, and political economy.

Carle Foundation Hospital was not releasing information about his condition Thursday morning but Assistant State's Attorney Steve Ziegler said he was told that Dharmapala sustained about a six-inch cut on his throat which bled profusely.

Champaign police were called to the second floor of the transportation terminal at 45 E. University Avenue at 5:44 a.m. Wednesday. They found two men in the waiting area for the trains, one of whom was sitting in a chair bleeding heavily and the other lying face down on the floor with a utility knife laying nearby.

A male witness told police the men were both seated in the waiting area when one man suddenly jumped up and shouted that this was his country and attacked Dharmapala.

The attacker, later identified as Scaggs, then grabbed Dharmapala around the neck and appeared to be choking him. He then forced the victim to the floor.

The witness intervened by pulling the attacker off Dharmapala. The witness then noticed that the attacker was holding a utility knife and the victim was bleeding.

Ziegler said Dharmapala was waiting to take a train to Chicago. He had no information on why Scaggs may have been there. Police recovered the box cutter believed used to injure Dharmapala. He said Scaggs had another folding knife in his pocket.

In an email sent Wednesday to UI faculty, students and staff, President Michael Hogan said:

"As some of you may have read in the newspapers, this morning a member of our faculty was severely injured during what appears to have been a senseless act of aggression and alleged hate crime by another not affiliated with the University of Illinois.  The University is deeply saddened by this event.
"We are grateful to those who intervened to offer aid and the thoughts of the entire University community are with the victim and his family, wishing for a complete and speedy recovery."

Scaggs, who was booked into the county jail about 8:15 a.m., did not report any injuries, police said.

Ziegler said Scaggs has a 2006 burglary conviction out of Indiana that could make him eligible for an extended term on the aggravated battery counts, assuming he's convicted of those Class 3 felonies. The attempted murder charge is a Class X felony carrying a mandatory prison sentence of between six and 30 years.

Although police arrested Scaggs for the offense of hate crime, Ziegler said he opted not to file it because the other charges carry heavier penalties and he's confident he can prove the aggravated battery based on the information he has. 

Champaign police Lt. Joe Gallo said one of his investigators interviewed Scaggs but Ziegler said Thursday morning he had not seen that report yet.