US Attorneys weigh how to prosecute ex-ASU assistant professor for Liberty Bell threat

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By Jennifer Thomas By Jennifer Thomas

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Just after 10 a.m. Saturday, Carlos Balsas, 41, was in line to enter Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia.

Hundreds come to see the Liberty Bell, and everyone must go through security screening inside the Visitor's Center. The park's chief ranger said that is where Balsas' problems began.

"The individual was compliant on one bag and then refused to let the screener take a look at his second bag, and at that time had made a comment to the screener that stated he had an explosive in the bag," Chief Ranger Patrick Suddath said.

The suspect left the building but security caught him moments later.

"He was not compliant," Suddath said. "They took him into custody and at that point the Philadelphia bomb squad was summoned."

The squad looked through both of Balsas' black backpacks but did not find any explosives.

The strangeness of the seemingly empty threat is compounded by Balsas' recent personal setback. On Jan. 14, a Maricopa County judge denied his appeal for a promotion at Arizona State University.

Balsas started as an assistant professor of urban planning in 2004. He applied for tenure in 2009, but 17 members of his school's committee voted not to recommend him. His application continued up the ranks, but each of the next three committees voted against his promotion. Two weeks ago, Balsas lost his appeal of the decision.

No doubt investigators will now look into whether or not that played any role in his alleged crime.