Tuesday, October 25, 2011
Last week, I posted the story of a criminal defendant assertin that he didn’t really mean the threats that he had posted on Facebook. I repost that email below. Update: The jury did not buy his argument and convicted him on four counts. Here is the story from law.com
A federal jury on Thursday found a Facebook user guilty of four counts of threatening his estranged wife, the Pennsylvania State Police and the Berks County Sheriff's Department, a kindergarten class, and an FBI agent and not guilty of threatening patrons and employees of Dorney Park, where he used to work.
A federal prosecutor and a defense attorney took the same social networking posts made by Anthony D. Elonis in the autumn of 2010 and asked a federal jury in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania to view them in very different ways.
To federal prosecutors, Elonis' posts on the site were the perfect way to make sure people in his life became fearful for their lives.But to defense counsel, Elonis' Facebook posts were a way to vent his anger as his life came unhinged when his home life fell apart and he lost his job.
Here is my earlier post:
From the Legal Intelligencer:
A man indicted for allegedly making violent threats on a social networking site toward his estranged wife, law enforcement officers, his former co-workers and to an unspecified kindergarten class was not committing a crime because his words were more like the lyrics of an artist who raps an intent to commit violent acts, his defense attorney argued in federal court Monday.
His lawyer argued that these postings were “rhyme settings” that enjoyed First Amendment protection.
The federal district judge evidently was not persuaded and declined to dismiss the charges. The jury will have to decide if the threats were “true threats” that violated a federal statute outlawing “any communication [in interstate or foreign commerce] containing any threat . . .. to injure the person of another.”