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Banned University of Idaho professor arrested on drug, burglary charges

UPDATED: Wed., Sept. 25, 2019

Denise Bennett, a tenured journalism professor at the University of Idaho, criticizes school officials in a video posted to YouTube on Jan. 29, 2019, shortly before school administrators publicized allegations that she used methamphetamine and banned her from the Moscow campus.
Denise Bennett, a tenured journalism professor at the University of Idaho, criticizes school officials in a video posted to YouTube on Jan. 29, 2019, shortly before school administrators publicized allegations that she used methamphetamine and banned her from the Moscow campus.

A former University of Idaho journalism professor was arrested on drug and burglary charges in Nez Perce County last week, months after she was banned from the Moscow campus and shortly after she was fired for “berating” colleagues.

Court records say Denise Bennett stayed at a man’s trailer home in Lewiston for about a week before moving out on Sept. 18. The man called police two days later, alleging Bennett had stolen one of his two cellphones, along with some clothing and charging cords.

Officers with the Lewiston and Nez Perce Tribe police departments suggested Bennett had crawled through a window to steal the items. They found her Friday night at the Clearwater River Casino & Lodge, where she returned the man’s phone. The officers also called in an Idaho State Police trooper after finding methamphetamine in her hotel room, according to court records.

Bennett faces charges of drug possession and burglary, both felonies, as well as a misdemeanor charge of possession of drug paraphernalia. She posted a $5,000 bond and has pleaded not guilty to the charges. As of Wednesday afternoon, she did not have an attorney listed with the court.

A tenured professor, Bennett taught broadcasting, digital media production and documentary filmmaking at UI beginning in 2006. UI President Scott Green fired her on Sept. 10, citing, among other issues, a profanity-laced “manifesto” in which she criticized the school’s management of grant funding and other campus policies.

Her tumultuous departure from the university first drew public attention in January, when administrators took the unusual step of banning her from campus and using an emergency alert system to publicize prior allegations of meth use.

The alert also warned that Bennett had “access to firearms” and urged students, faculty and staff to call 911 if they saw her on campus – though police at the time said she presented no threat.

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