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FAYETTEVILLE -- Prosecutors on Friday agreed to drop a felony false reporting charge against a former University of Arkansas, Fayetteville student accused of using Facebook to make threats against herself in another student's name.

Nicolette Nottage, 24, had been charged in May 2018 in Washington County Circuit Court.

Prosecutors, in court documents, had accused Nottage of filing a police report causing another student to be arrested on suspicion of first-degree terroristic threatening, a felony.

Matt Durrett, prosecuting attorney for Washington County, said Monday the decision to drop the charge came after prosecutors spoke with the actual victim, referring to the UA student wrongly jailed because of the reported threats.

"It was done at the request of the victim," Durrett said, adding that "in this situation, she's the one who was most directly affected by this."

The arrested student, Emily Hunt, told the Democrat-Gazette last year how she had suddenly found herself placed in handcuffs by university police and was booked into jail before anyone had questioned her about the alleged threats.

Police records, including video, show Nottage stating she had received the threats via Facebook Messenger from Hunt. A final police report referred to a "fictitious Facebook page" used in creating the threats.

Hunt, in an email Monday, referred to a settlement in a civil lawsuit filed against Nottage.

"It was not my wish for the criminal charges to be dropped, however a condition of the settlement was that I would not object, and the prosecutor's office quickly took advantage of that opportunity," Hunt said.

She did not disclose the settlement amount.

She added: "We felt like there was not a strong motivation to pursue the criminal case by the prosecutors office, so we took the only route where we felt like we could maybe see some sort of resolution."

John Mikesch, the attorney representing Nottage, said neither he nor Nottage had any comment.

Hunt last year said she was released on bond after a night in jail, then with support from her family had to battle to prove her innocence and contest an immediate suspension imposed by school officials. Hunt was arrested May 1, 2018, and a UA student-conduct official notified police May 7, 2018, that the threat might have been falsified, according to a police report.

"If we hadn't worked to prove so strongly that this didn't come from me, I don't think there would have been as much an investigation into it, and I don't think it would have been the same outcome," Hunt said last year.

Steve Gahagans, UA's top police official, told the Democrat-Gazette last year that police "felt they needed to act swiftly to find this person based upon what they were being told." Among the purported threats was the statement, "leave this school or i will come to your apartment at varsity house and kill you with my own gun," according to the police report.

Hunt and her half-sister, Megan Garner, last year told the Democrat-Gazette they were disappointed that police did not gather more information about the social media messages before taking action. They described working to bring forward information to school officials that the Facebook evidence -- while appearing at a glance to be from Hunt's account -- wasn't what it seemed.

Eventually, as stated in a police detective's report, investigators concluded that the messages "appeared to have been produced using computer software" and that "a fictitious Facebook page had been created."

Garner, in an email Monday, said she still feels disappointed.

"All of us in the family and Emily's circle are completely disillusioned and disappointed in the justice system and the university as a whole," Garner said.

Hunt said last year that Nottage had once been a close friend as both studied architecture at UA.

Hunt's civil lawsuit alleged that the threat report by Nottage was an escalation of "retaliatory actions." The lawsuit states that items were stolen from architecture students, and that Hunt "reported those thefts to the University of Arkansas which took various measures to prove the defendant was the thief, all of which were unsuccessful."

Hunt, on Monday, said that while the court cases have ended, things still feel unresolved.

"I still don't understand why this happened, why it hasn't spurred changes at the university level, why it wasn't a priority in the eyes of the law, and what would prevent it from happening again. It's been tidied up and taken care of in the eyes of the courts and the university, but I don't know that I will ever feel any sense of resolution," Hunt said.

Metro on 02/04/2020

Print Headline: Case of made-up Facebook threats ends in dismissal of charge against ex-UA student

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