CLEVELAND: A controversial Kent State University professor pleaded guilty Thursday in U.S. District Court to lying to federal investigators as part of an agreement with prosecutors.

Julio Pino, a tenured professor of history, opted to plead to making a false statement to law enforcement instead of having a grand jury examine the case or have it go to trial.

Pino, 57, was charged Monday and suspended from the university the same day. The federal charge stems from a 2015 FBI investigation into a post by one of his Facebook friends.

Judge Patricia Gaughan scheduled Pino’s sentencing for noon Aug. 23. She set a $25,000 unsecured bond for Pino until the sentencing. He also was required to surrender his passport and other travel documents.

The judge agreed to allow him to travel to Florida for a month to visit his mother.

Warner Mendenhall, his Akron attorney, said Pino has no plans to return to teaching at Kent State and he has put in for early retirement.

“Mr. Pino has been very clear that he’s not a personally violent person and does not encourage violence,” Mendenhall said.

Kent State is moving forward with firing Pino “in accordance with personnel policies,” university spokesman Eric Mans­field said.

“He remains suspended from the university, and is prohibited from coming on to any Kent State campus,” Mansfield said in a prepared statement. “A qualified instructor has taken over his classes so that his students can finish their studies on time and without interruption.”

Pino has taught at Kent State for more than two decades.

He made no comments in court, other than responding to yes and no questions from the judge.

The plea agreement calls for Pino to be sentenced to 10 to 16 months in prison or some other form of punishment for this period. The maximum penalty for the charge is five years in prison and $250,000 fine.

According to court documents, Pino’s Facebook friend — identified as J.E. in court documents — lives in St. Louis and posted numerous statements and images on social media threatening to “kill 100s of people” over child custody issues. Pino commented on his post, encouraging his statements.

“Devour them, [J.E.],” Pino wrote.

J.E. was arrested on Jan. 11, 2016, after threatening the judge involved in his child custody case. He posted on Facebook the same day stating, “I [expletive] love Julio Pino, even if he does eventually do something that most consider horrible, I’ll still love him because I know him in a deeper way than most of you even could.”

The FBI reached out to Pino because of his connection to J.E., but Pino denied having ever known him and stated “it is certainly possible that he could have heard of me and made up this conversation, invented it.”

It’s not the first time that Pino has come under scrutiny. Pino, who has a history of making anti-Israel comments, was under investigation in 2016 over possible ties to the Islamic State group. He denied the allegations and never faced any charges related to that investigation.

Pino has been in the news several times because of his political beliefs. In 2011, he yelled, “Death to Israel!” at a public lecture by a former Israeli diplomat. In 2014, he accused “academic friends” of causing 1,400 Palestinians deaths.

Rick Armon can be reached at 330-996-3569 or rarmon@thebeaconjournal.com.