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Fresno State professor placed on leave after tweeting 'Trump must hang'

A history professor at Fresno State University has been placed on paid leave after writing on Twitter that President Trump "must hang" to save American democracy.

Fresno State President Joseph Castro announced Monday that Lars Maischak has agreed to go on paid leave for the rest of spring semester. The professor posted the tweet in late February.

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Maischak, who teaches five American history classes to more than 200 students, will spend the rest of the semester conducting research off campus, Castro said in a statement.

Fresno State American history professor Lars Maischak has been placed on paid leave for a tweet he made against President Trump.
Fresno State American history professor Lars Maischak has been placed on paid leave for a tweet he made against President Trump. (Fresno State)

Substitute teachers have been assigned to Maischak's classes for the remainder of the semester as the university continues to review the incident.

Maischak declined to comment Wednesday, but apologized for his tweet in previous statements to The Times and said that "it was never my intent to harm anyone, nor to encourage others to harm anyone."

An investigation is still being conducted by the U.S. Secret Service.

In the tweet, Maischak wrote, "To save American democracy, Trump must hang. The sooner and the higher, the better."

Maischak said he wrote the tweet to his 28 followers under the assumption that it would be read by a close group of people he knew who would "place them in their context."

But the tweet made national headlines after right-wing website Breitbart News reported about it in early April.

Tim Franklin, a counter-terrorism instructor at Arizona State University and former U.S. Secret Service special agent, said that "any kind of threat to the president, whether it comes down to social media or a telephone call, will be evaluated."

But Franklin said it's becoming more difficult for the Secret Service to keep up with the number of threats made against the president over social media.

"The Secret Service is concerned about a repeated history of threats that may escalate. It is difficult to keep track of all this and for it to come to the attention of the Secret Service," Franklin said.

Generally, there is an uptick in threats when a new administration comes to the White House, similar to when President Obama first started his presidency, according to Franklin.

"We think our online life is our personal life and that's not the case. The minute your finger touches the keyboard and transmits something, it becomes public domain," Franklin said.

To win a conviction in cases of threats against the president, prosecutors must prove that a statement was intended and could be perceived as a threat. Punishment can include up to five years in prison, according to federal law.

Maischak, who has been lecturing at Fresno State since 2006, said in previous statements to The Times that it felt cathartic at the time to write the tweets but he regrets treating Twitter like a journal.

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He has since deleted his Twitter account so that no one could read his posts and "take them as encouragement to act violently or unlawfully."

In the aftermath of the Breitbart article, Maischak said he has received a flood of threats and hate mail.

Eileen Walsh, a former history professor at Fresno State, worked with Maischak for five years until she retired in 2011. She finds the situation aggravating and said that Maischak is a good person and an accomplished scholar.

Follow me on Twitter @melissaetehad

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UPDATES:

12:15 p.m.: This post was updated with comments from former Secret Service special agent Tim Franklin and fellow professor Eileen Walsh.

This post was originally published at 11:20 a.m.

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