George Mason University

Economist Tyler Cowen's Attacker Identified as John Pendleton


Arlington County Police Department

The man who attacked economist and George Mason University professor Tyler Cowen with pepper spray yesterday has been identified as 31-year-old John Pendleton. Economic Policy Journal points out that a Jonathan Pendleton has previously commented on Cowen's blog, Marginal Revolution, accusing Cowen of hacking his computer and sexually harrassing him for several months. 

In a comment posted March 17, 2014, Pendleton wrote: 

What better place to do prison research than inside a prison?

If the police and FBI won't arrest you for hacking my computer and sexually harassing me over the past several months, I will do it myself—in the next couple weeks before school starts again. Either way, one of us is going to prison 

I will entertain settlement offers at the email address provided.

Jonathan E Pendleton 

Yesterday afternoon, Pendleton made good on these threats, busting into Cowen's classroom as Cowen was teaching a class (on vigilante justice, ironically enough). According to Arlington County Police spokesman Dustin Sternbeck, Pendleton entered the classroom, stood up on a desk, and announced that he was placing Cowen under "citizen's arrest." Pendleton then attempted to handcuff Cowen and, when Cowen resisted, sprayed him in the face with pepper spray.

A student tried to intervene and Pendleton struck him with a stun gun, according to Sternbeck. Cowen fled the room, with Pendleton chasing and eventually catching up to him in the hallway and trying once again to place him in handcuffs. 

Police eventually apprehended Pendleton, who was taken to the Arlington County Police Department. He has been charged with assault with a caustic substance and abduction, and is being held in a detention facility. 

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  1. I’m going out on a limb here and guessing “mental illness”.

    1. Curse you!

    2. That or Cowen did hack his computer and sexually harass him.

      Stranger things have happened.

      1. Even if Cowen did hack his computer and sexually harass him, I’m still going with mental illness.

  2. Sounds like run of the mill mental illness to me.

    1. Great minds….

  3. So he’s a loon. What a surprise.

    1. from Seattle. Also not a surprise.

  4. “assault by caustic substance” ?

    Is that what it’s called when the serfs do it?

    1. Lucky he didn’t get charged with “assault by wood”, which applies to being hit with a bat or war on womenz.

      1. Or someone throwing George Washington’s teeth at you

        1. Unless it was George Washington who threw them. Then it’s [REDACTED FOR NATIONAL SECURITY]

    2. Reading the article, I had to look twice at that. There is actually a LAW forbidding “assault by caustic substance”? Otherwise, why does it matter how the assault was perpetrated? Isn’t an “assault” charge good enough, with the particulars to be explained to the judge and jury?

      1. Enhanced penalties, would be my guess.

        I can assault you by throwing water on you. If I throw acid on you, I should get a longer sentence.

        1. RC –

          I think you’re more than likely right – but couldn’t we go back to just one assault law, with various degrees? Just like one reckless driving law versus the 238 flavors of “texting by cell” “talking by cell” “makeup” ….?

          Sorry to answer my own question – but while writing this I know the answer in today’s society is “no, we cannot do that”.

          IIRC – it all started in the 80s where judges were making stupid decisions with their discretion on things such as bail, sentencing, even dismissals, and there was a voter backlash.

          Which involved passing lots of laws regarding sentencing mins/maxs and truth in sentencing laws (mostly meaning you’ll do at least 80% of the time given) – followed closely by 3 strikes laws.

          Not saying I agree with those laws. & All things being equal – I think the legal code should be as easy and simplified as a flat tax would be.

          However, given context I think it’s fairly easy to understand how we got here.

          Tangential note – this is also true of many other problems in society today – too many laws/regulations/etc – but when looked at historically almost all of them when enacted seemed like great ideas and were natural responses to what was happening at the time (example most tax deductions make sense – but not 80K pages).

          The results: we end up here with society admiring the millions of individual trees; all while the forest they inhabit burns to the ground.

  5. This sounds familiar.

    Miller denied again and again that he was the hacker but Halder didn’t believe him. Infuriated, Halder complained to Case Western demanding that Miller be punished but the university referred the matter to police. When the police dropped the case for lack of evidence, Halder still wasn’t satisfied. So he sued Miller.

    At the end of April 2003, Halder’s lawsuit was thrown out of court but he wasn’t done. Convinced now that Miller and the university had conspired to harm him, Halder picked up a gun, the prosecutor said, with a mission in mind. He was intent on finding his own justice

    So it’s a good thing Tyler Cowen’s loon was less ambitious than this loon.

    1. It said automatic gunfire in the article. Is that a mistake?

      1. Total bullshit.

        1. Here we go. He had two pistols.

  6. The HnR commentariat, on the contrary, is too reasonable for a stunt like this.

    1. Is this use of reasonable a drinkable offense?

      1. Don’t drink anything she gives you.

      2. Close enough.

    2. The greatest stunt libertarians ever pulled was to convince you we were devils.

      That or that picture hack which allowed us to post images into comments. That was a pretty good one.

    3. Mary still chasing man bear pig I see

  7. The Weird tag offers up some memorable stories.

    1. I enjoy that the tag isn’t ‘weird stories’ or ‘weird news’ or anything like that. Just: Weird.

  8. After yesterday’s comments, some of you guys might want to roll up your jump-to-conclusions mats.

    1. Mine’s out and glued to the floor. Sorry.

    2. Oh, no, but that might require some people to reflect on how well their reactions to this incident resembled the reactions by certain people to the Giffords shooting. Better to just pretend they never said anything and chuck it all down the memory hole.

      1. At least nobody here is starting a national civility movement or claiming that Fairfax City attacked Cowen via mind control.

    3. But my mat’s worth a million dollars.

    4. I’ll give you a hearty ‘Amen’ for chastising those idiots who immediately assumed he was a leftist.

      The thing is, the guy was armed, he was asserting his authority to repress the prof, he did something extreme, and he’s a nutbag. Nutbag, repressive, authoritarian, armed extremist. Obviously he’s a mainstream Republican.

      And I’ll bet you a fat dollar that you can find more than one person making that exact argument, but with a straight face.

    5. After yesterday’s comments, some of you guys might want to roll up your jump-to-conclusions mats.

      You should re-read those comments – as while many commentators did speculate a political motive due to Cowen’s own politics – the vast majority didn’t say anything like “we know it was..” or “I’m positive it’s…”

      & then note – a site which could continue speculating and get a 1000 comment blog post out – did not. They alerted their readers that the gut reaction most had was wrong.

      But that’s intelligent people for you – they can have gut reactions, talk about them openly, but never assume it’s true until all the facts are in.

      & when the facts differ – they change their reaction.

      Much different than “he had an AR15 military assault rifle that was fully automatic” news stories that were completely wrong and never once did those main stream sources fix that discrepancy later.

      They just let it go – the let others link to it and continue to push the lie – because it helps them.

      Yet you’re here chastising those who never printed something they didn’t know, most never assumed the specifics you imply they did, and as soon as information came out to the contrary, they openly let everyone know and no one has denied the truth.

      Maybe for your next drive-by idiocy – you can yell at non-drinkers for being alcoholics. Makes as much sense.

  9. A student tried to intervene and Pendleton struck him with a stun gun, according to Sternbeck.

    A hearty kudos to that student.

    1. Odd that they didn’t hang a separate assault charge on the nutter for that.

      1. They didn’t want to encourage civilians to try to stop questionable arrests.

  10. It’s sobering to realize that some insane potential killer can fasten on you via the net.

    1. My reaction to it wasn’t exactly to sober up.

  11. So, just plain crazy. Damn.

  12. I will entertain settlement offers at the email address provided.

    Now, *that’s* entertainment!

    1. “I have taken his teeth. I will entertain an offer for the rest of him.”

      1. I liked the remake better.
        I think I could actually smell Cogburn through the tv.

  13. Marginal Revolution is one my regular haunts. Tyler is excellent aggregator of modern curiosities. Here’s one his link about reality TV in Norway:…

  14. See what marijuana legalization will get you?

    /Drug Warrior

  15. do we have the arrest record available?

  16. Well, okay, then.

  17. I’ve been warning you guys about this for years.

    Hopefully whoever is the ultimate target is armed at the time.

  18. Which one of our trolls is missing?


  19. Cowen was teaching a class (on vigilante justice, ironically enough)

    This was actually a queer coincidence and not actually ironic. Irony is when you are expecting one thing and another thing that is approximately the opposite of that happens, or when you say one thing but mean the opposite. eg “That dude’s REAL smart” when you mean he’s dumb, or shocking somebody to kill them only to actually make their pacemaker work better and enhancing their health.

    1. But it was his wedding day and it was raining!

      By the way, glad the prof didn’t get hurt and the assailant got arrested.

    2. FINE.

      I was just reading back through this and wishing I hadn’t written that, actually. Just because it sounds corny. But now also because I’m apparently as bad with irony as Alanis Morisette/most everyone.

      1. Meh – don’t be too hard on yourself.

        The original phrasing wasn’t that bad – it’s just that this site is full of pendants, aspys, ADHD, engineers, and the like.

        1. You misspelled pedant.

          1. If only you responded “You mispelled pedant” the resulting pedantic chain reaction could really have been something.

  20. When asked if you’d ‘like a little pepper with that’ always shield your eyes. Survivorman, Arlington VA

  21. Over the mountain and through the woods, here we go man.

  22. Funny that police officers are never charged with “assault with a caustic substance” or “abduction” when they arrest and pepper spray someone without cause.

  23. But by doing nothing and believing the spin, we will have been responsible for leaving a legacy that will shame us all.

    Translation: I chose to study rhetoric instead of engineering.

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