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Virginia Tech appeals fines from 2007 shooting rampage

By the CNN Wire Staff
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The federal government says the university did not send a timely warning
  • Virgina Tech was fined $55,000
  • The 2007 shooting left 33 people dead, including the gunman
  • The university says it met rules that were current at the time

(CNN) -- Virginia Tech is appealing the $55,000 it was fined by the federal government for failing to provide a timely warning about a shooter on the loose in 2007, the Virginia attorney general said Wednesday.

"The relatively small monetary penalty is not the reason for this appeal. The university has already expended millions as a result of the tragedy," Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli said in a statement. "The main purpose of the appeal is to compel the DOE (Department of Education) to treat Virginia Tech fairly and to apply a very poorly defined and subjectively applied federal law consistently and correctly."

Cuccinelli called the charges against Virgina Tech "Monday-morning quarterbacking at its very worst."

In a 2010 report, the Department of Education found that the school did not notify students in a "timely manner" -- as dictated by what is known as the Clery Act -- after a shooting at a residence hall that left two people dead on April 16, 2007. The government also fined Virginia Tech for failing to follow internal school policies.

The same shooter, identified as Cho Seung-Hui, 23, went to the university's Norris Hall more than two hours later and killed 30 more people before turning a gun on himself.

The Clery Act was created in 1990 in memory of 19-year-old Jeanne Ann Clery, who was raped and killed while asleep in her dorm room at Lehigh University. The law requires colleges and universities to disclose information about crimes on or near their campuses.

"No one denies that it is possible in hindsight to imagine scenarios where things might have transpired differently on April 16. But that is not the point -- and it is not the way people react to events in the real world," said Cuccinelli. "In the real world, events unfold quickly, and the full context often becomes clear only later."

According to the report, police went to the scene of the Virginia Tech dorm shooting at 7:24 a.m.

At 7:57 a.m. police notified the office of the executive vice president about the shooting.

Virgina Tech President Charles W. Steger was then notified and an 8:25 a.m. meeting was held to discuss the shootings and how best to notify the campus community. The administration knew that no weapon had been found and that bloody footprints led away from the crime scene, according to the education department.

But it was not until 9:26 a.m. that the university first notified students and staff by e-mail about the shooting.

"The message was vague and only notified the community there had been a shooting on campus. It did not mention that there had been a murder or that the killer had not been identified," the Department of Education said in March.

It was about 15 minutes after the e-mail went out that Cho began shooting in Norris Hall. The rampage lasted from about 9:40 a.m. to 9:51 a.m. A second message was sent to the community at 9:50 a.m.

University officials have disputed the findings and argued the school is being held accountable for a new federal standard that was adopted after the 2007 shooting.

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