James Fovell, the UCSB student arrested a little over a week ago for carrying knives and an expandable baton in a campus dorm, is currently out on bail and awaiting an arraignment scheduled for next week.
According to University of California, Santa Barbara Police Dept. Public Information Officer Matt Bowman, Fovell was released from Santa Barbara County Jail after posting $20,000 bail. The 18-year-old Fovell was taken into custody when campus police discovered him wandering an all-female floor of the San Miguel Residence Hall at 3 a.m. on April 17. He was charged with possession of three illegal weapons.
Fovell’s defense attorney Adam Pearlman confirmed that his client is out on bail and currently living with his parents while he awaits his arraignment date on May 9.
While the UCPD report stated that Fovell was arrested due to his presence on the all-female floor, his fixation on one particular dorm room and his suspicious attire, including all black clothing and a trench coat, Pearlman claimed this representation of his client is misleading
“The truth is he lives in one tower and his girlfriend lives in another tower [of San Miguel], and he walked from his tower across the adjoining pathway to her floor and began knocking on her door,” Pearlman said “The problem was she had fallen asleep, so he was banging on the door when the UCPD officer walked by.”
Additionally, Pearlman said his defendant did not fit the menacing description outlined in the police report and was still in sleepwear at the time of his arrest.
“He was in a tan jacket and slippers, not even wearing shoes,” Pearlman said. “There was nothing in his appearance [that was] dangerous or suspicious,” Pearlman said. “There is no evidence he threatened anyone or was a danger to anyone.”
Fovell’s former roommate, Carlos Benitez, said Fovell routinely carried knives for self-defense following an incident in which he was verbally harassed by a group of fraternity brothers in Isla Vista.
“He was afraid because he had some bad experiences with the frat guys,” Benitez said. “[One night] we both went out to eat at Freebirds and I could tell [the fraternity brothers] were drunk. You could smell the alcohol off of them. They were picking on him in line because of the way he dressed, and they kept following us down the street, saying insults and trying to make us turn around and fight them.”
Jay Bicknell, a first-year music composition major who lived on the same floor as Fovell and attended music class with him three days a week, said the images conjured up by the police report do not accurately reflect Fovell’s persona.
“I mean, yeah, on the surface it’s just like, whoa, he has knives and he wears a trench coat, but that’s just what he’s into,” Bicknell said. “That’s his style. He’s harmless. He’s just a knife collector. He’s an enthusiast. Other than that, he plays the flute. I mean, he may have had a flute with a knife in it, but either way, he’s just a jolly little piper.”
Residential Life Assistant Director Christopher Johnson said Fovell is no longer a resident of San Miguel but could not disclose any further information.
“The case is confidential,” Johnson said. “I cannot share any information about his status as a student or status in the residence halls. What I can let you know is that he is no longer living in the residence halls.”
Benitez, a first-year pharmacology major, said Fovell entered UCSB with an academic mindset and positive intentions but that his arrest has fundamentally altered his experience at the university.
“He was here to study and make friends and have a good time, not to party or do harm,” Benitez said. “He never smoked or drank, and he even wanted to be a [Community Service Organization officer] to help drunk people walk back from parties. That’s how good of a guy he was. Now he’ll never be able to do that, and the situation that happened to him changed his life completely.”