Aside from the work of running the government, a lot of the things that a local politician does can be described as community engagement. They go to various events and gatherings to get a feel for what their constituents are feeling, not to mention getting their face out there for the free press and goodwill.
As politicians, they are aware of the stereotypes they’re fighting against from day one. They do what they can to appear honest and trustworthy, despite the preconceived notions of the public. But when the truth about one politician’s visit to a high school came out, it would do nothing to improve people’s perceptions…
Henry Stobbs, who taught the American Government class at Mohawk High School in Sycamore High School, had secured a great treat for his students. He’d arranged for their state representative, Senator David Burke, to come in one day and give a talk to his students.
Getting face time with the state senator was a great opportunity for his students. They would get an insider’s perspective into the workings of the state legislature and have the opportunity to ask him whatever questions they might have about the sorts of things that never appear in the newspaper…
So when he got a call saying Sen. Burke wouldn’t be able to make his scheduled January appearance, Mr. Stobbs was crestfallen at first. He was told that Sen. Burke had fallen ill and not only would he be unable to speak to the class, he was stepping down from his position entirely.
But It’s Ok
But the person on the other end of the phone line had good news as well. He told Mr. Stobbs that he was Sen. Burke’s replacement and would be more than happy to come speak to the Mohawk High students in the former senator’s place…
In fact, Sen. Burke’s replacement might be an even better choice to speak to Mr. Stobbs’ students. That’s because he was the “youngest state senator ever.” The guy on the other end of the line, Izaha Akins, was just 18 years old.
Mr. Stobbs was naturally skeptical. He hadn’t heard about Sen. Burk’s resignation and replacement in the local media and an 18-year-old becoming a state senator is certainly the kind of thing that would be reported in the news…
But Sen. Akins explained that Sen. Burke’s resignation was not yet official and that he’d been the second choice to replace him, selected only after the primary choice declined the offer. With Mr. Stobbs’ concerns assuaged, they arranged to move the date of the visit up from January to December.
When the day came for his visit, everything with Sen. Akins went great. He arrived with a driver and 2 aides, took a tour of the high school, then gave a rousing speech about the political process and the importance of being active in politics. Mr. Stobbs and his students thought everything about the visit was great — until several weeks later Sen. Burke showed up on the originally scheduled date, ready to give a speech…
When Mr. Stobbs explained about Akins’ visit, Sen. Burke was completely shocked. Nothing he’d been told about the senator’s stepping down or being replaced was true. Akins was not at all related to the state legislature and, for some reason, had duped them all.
Fooled Us All
“The presentation, although not ‘polished,’ was what one might expect from a young, inexperienced and newly appointed senator,” said Ken Ratliff, the Mohawk Local School District superintendent. “No one was the wiser.”…
This is an extremely elaborate scheme and not as simple as walking through the door,” Sen. Burke said. “When I heard about this, the school and I immediately began working with law enforcement.”
It wasn’t hard for the police to track Akins down. In fact, it seemed like he wasn’t even trying to hide. He’d given them his real name and gave them his real ID when he showed up to the school…
When police tracked Akins down, he had a simple reason for why he pulled the stunt. He said he’d been doing a research paper for school — his freshman year of college — about school security in rural communities and his hoax was to show how lax school security can be.
Making A Point
“I was duping to prove a point, that these kinds of things can happen,” Akins said. He’d managed to impersonate a high ranking government official with no credentials, armed with nothing but a semi-plausible story. “They could easily have Googled me and they didn’t.”…
Some people viewed what he’d done as a harmless prank or even a beneficial one since it resulted in Mohawk High School putting an identity verification process in place for people visiting the school. Even the police believed Akins actions weren’t dangerous. “At no point during this process did we feel Mr. Akins was a threat to our students,” said Wyandot County Sheriff Mike Hetzel.
But whether or not his actions were harmful and regardless of the point Akins had been trying to make, he had broken the law. He was arrested on charges of telecommunications fraud and impersonating a peace officer, 5th, and 3rd-degree felonies respectively. He was facing up to 3 years in prison for the stunt…
After being arrested, Akins had been freed on his own recognizance before his trial date but the judge revoked that and set a $15,000 cash bond after Akins violated her order not to leave the state — to attend a Model Congress convention in Washington, of all things.
Sitting in jail for nearly 2 months as he awaited the decision of the court, it’s certain that the true gravity of the consequences for his actions finally hit home for Akins. His lawyer, Andrew Wick, said his client readily agreed to avoid the risk of prison…
Ultimately, he would be sentenced to serving a little over 1 more month in jail and 3 years of probation as punishment. The judge also ordered Akins to pay $138 in restitution to the Reaneke Family Dealerships, the car dealership that offered to provide a free car and driver for the “senator’s” visit.
“He’s never had any legal problems before. He’s hopeful he can talk to potential employers and educators and explain the reasons for what he did,” said his lawyer. Izaha Akins also had hopes of eventually expunging the felony conviction from his record since, in addition to making it harder to get a job after college, it would also hurt his chances if he ever ran for a position in government.