Vikram Buddhi, 35, an Indian national who was attending advanced engineering classes at Purdue's West Lafayette campus, was found guilty by a federal jury Thursday on 11 counts of making threats that were posted in a chat room in 2005 and 2006.
Buddhi faces up to 35 years in prison when he is sentenced later this year.
Buddhi hijacked online identities of other Purdue students to post messages, the federal indictment said. The messages justified the murder of Bush and Cheney and the rape of their wives. He also made threats against then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and sensitive American infrastructure, U.S. attorneys said during the three-day trial.
Buddhi, who spent a decade studying at Purdue in West Lafayette, never disputed writing online messages such as, "Call for the assassination of GW Bush" and "Rape and Kill Laura Bush."
Rather, the U.S. District Court jury in Hammond had to decide whether Buddhi's comments were true threats or part of a crude online protest of the Iraq War that should be protected by free speech rights.
"I hope this will serve as a deterrent to other people who want to kill human beings, blow up power plants," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Philip Benson.
Defense attorney John Martin said Buddhi had no intention of actually harming anyone.
"Where does it say Mr. Buddhi is going to kill the president, the vice president?" he argued. "It doesn't. These comments are posted in the context of the debate about the Iraq War,"
Buddhi's messages were posted on Yahoo! Finance messages boards, although prosecutors said Buddhi attempted to conceal his actions by using someone else's digital identity.
He was convicted of making threats against the president and successors to the president, making threats against former presidents and their families, making threats by interstate communications and use of the Internet to threaten destruction by fire.
Buddhi never took the stand in his trial, and the defense offered only one witness, an attorney who had located other threatening messages on the same financial news message board that Buddhi used.
The messages were reported to the Secret Service by three readers, and Purdue staff helped investigators track the postings to Buddhi's computer despite his use of software that disguised his computer address.