360° Coverage : Free speech or illegal threats? Justices could say

2 Updates

Free speech or illegal threats? Justices could say

Jun 7 2014, 11:48pm CDT | by

WASHINGTON (AP) — Messages posted on Facebook and Twitter or sent in emails can be tasteless, vulgar and even disturbing. But just when do they cross the line from free...

Filed under: news

 
 
 

14 weeks ago

Free speech or illegal threats? Justices could say

Jun 7 2014, 11:48pm CDT | by

WASHINGTON (AP) — Messages posted on Facebook and Twitter or sent in emails can be tasteless, vulgar and even disturbing.

But just when do they cross the line from free speech to threats that can be punished as a crime?

As the Internet and social networks allow people to vent their frustrations with the click of a mouse, the Supreme Court is being asked to clarify the First Amendment rights of people who use violent or threatening language on electronic media where the speaker's intent is not always clear.

The justices could decide as early as Monday whether to hear appeals in two cases where defendants were convicted and sent to jail for making illegal threats, despite their claims that they never meant any harm.

In one case, a Pennsylvania man ranted on Facebook in the form of rap lyrics about killing his estranged wife, blowing up an amusement park, slitting the throat of an FBI agent and committing "the most heinous school shooting ever imagined."

The other case involves a Florida woman who emailed a conservative radio talk show host about "second amendment gun rights" and said she was planning "something big" at a Broward County government building or school.

"I'm going to walk in and teach all the government hacks working there what the 2nd Amendment is all about," the email said. Her comments triggered a lockdown affecting more than a quarter-million students.

In both cases, the defendants were prosecuted under a federal statute that makes it crime to transmit a "threat to injure the person of another." Those laws apply only to "true threats" that are not protected by the First Amendment under a doctrine established by the Supreme Court in 1969. The high court has said laws prohibiting threats must not infringe on constitutionally protected speech that includes "political hyperbole" or "vehement," ''caustic," or "unpleasantly sharp attacks" that fall shy of true threats.

Most lower courts say determining a true threat depends on how an objective person would understand the message. But lawyers for the defendants, along with some free-speech groups, say it should depend on the speaker's state of mind. They say the rise of new forms of social media and the freedom of political discourse can lead people to misinterpret comments that are colorful political tirades or coarse rap lyrics not meant to threaten harm.

Those who support a subjective standard say the threat law should be governed by the Supreme Court's 2003 ruling in Virginia v. Black. In that case, the court invalidated Virginia's law against cross-burning because it did not include a crucial component: whether the Ku Klux Klan intended to intimidate someone by burning the cross.

The Obama administration says the cross-burning case does not require a specific intent to threaten. In its brief to the court, Justice Department attorneys say requiring proof of a subjective threat would undermine the law's purpose.

The wife of the Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, man, Anthony Elonis, testified at his trial that the postings made her fear for her life. One post about his wife said, "There's one way to love you but a thousand ways to kill you. I'm not going to rest until your body is a mess, soaked in blood and dying from all the little cuts."

FBI agents visited Elonis at home after the amusement park that fired him contacted law enforcement officials about his posts. After the agents left, Elonis wrote: "Little agent lady stood so close, took all the strength I had not to turn the (woman) ghost. Pull my knife, flick my wrist and slit her throat."

Elonis says he never meant to carry out the threats. He claims he was depressed and made the online posts in the form of rap lyrics as a way to vent his frustration after his wife left him.

Samuel Randall, attorney for Ellisa Martinez in the Florida case, said his client was attempting to make a mocking political point about the dangers of gun violence when she emailed the radio station. He said Martinez, of New Port Richey on Florida's Gulf Coast, never intended to cause such a big problem or harm anyone.

___

Follow Sam Hananel on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SamHananelAP

 
Update
2

2 weeks ago

Khazanah throws MAS RM6b lifeline

Aug 29 2014 5:01pm CDT | Source: Business Times Singapore

August 30, 2014 1:15 AMKHAZANAH Nasional will inject RM6 billion (SS$2.4 billion) over three years to resuscitate loss-making Malaysia Airlines (MAS) under a recovery plan that includes even an Act of Parliament. Other key moves are migrating its operations, assets and liabilities to a new company (NewCo) and slashing the workforce o ...
Source: Business Times Singapore   Full article at: Business Times Singapore
 

 
Update
1

3 weeks ago

MAS posts loss of RM307m for Q2

Aug 28 2014 5:00pm CDT | Source: Business Times Singapore

August 29, 2014 1:13 AMMALAYSIA Airlines (MAS) registered a loss of RM307 million (S$122 million) for the second quarter to end-June, but warned of worse to come in the second half when the "full financial impact of the double tragedies of MH370 and MH17" hits h ...
Source: Business Times Singapore   Full article at: Business Times Singapore
 

 

Don't miss ...

 

<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/31" rel="author">Associated Press</a>
The Associated Press (AP) is one of the largest and most trusted sources of independent newsgathering, supplying a steady stream of news to its members, international subscribers and commercial customers.

 

blog comments powered by Disqus

Latest stories

Smoking causes urological diseases
Vienna, Sep 19 (IANS) Smoking leads to a number of urological diseases, experts said.
 
 
'Angelina Effect' makes more women test for breast cancer
Islamabad, Sep 19 (IANS) At least three militants were killed Friday in a remote-controlled blast in Pakistan.
 
 
Want good raise at work? Get a supportive wife
New York, Sep 19 (IANS) Do not just blame your boss or jealous colleagues for no promotion or salary hike at work - your spouse's personality is equally important to decide if your chosen career will make you richer or poorer.
 
 
People with larger pupil size bad decision makers
London, Sep 19 (IANS) People with larger pupil size tend to be inconsistent in their decisions, says a study.
 
 
 

Latest from the Network

Iranian hardliners form 'chastity patrols'
Tehran, Sep 19 (IANS/EFE) "Chastity patrols", created by an Iranian paramilitary group, are patrolling the streets of Iran to force women to go "well covered" in public. At the beginning of summer, trendy Iranian...
Read more on Politics Balla
 
Sophia Loren celebrates 80th birthday with an exhibition
Los Angeles, Sep 19 (IANS) Italian actress Sophia Loren, who will turn 80 Saturday, will celebrate her birthday with an exhibition displaying her most prized possessions in Mexico. The Oscar winner's belongings,...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Liam Neeson scared of heights
New York, Sep 19 (IANS) Actor Liam Neeson may be known as a action star, but there is one thing that terrifies him: Heights. The 62-year-old actor admits he suffers from acrophobia and can't even manage to stand on a...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Jeptoo targets history in Chicago Marathon
Nairobi, Sep 19 (IANS) History will be beckoning for Boston Marathon champion Rita Jeptoo of Kenya when she lines up at the Chicago City course for the 42km race Oct 12. Jeptoo is chasing her maiden win in the World...
Read more on Sport Balla
 
UN urges diplomatic accord on Iran's n-programme
United Nations, Sep 19 (IANS) UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has urged a comprehensive agreement on Iran's nuclear programme at an early date. Ban made the appeal at a meeting Thursday with visiting Iranian Foreign...
Read more on Politics Balla
 
Bieber, Gomez moving in together?
Los Angeles, Sep 19 (IANS) Singer Justin Bieber has reportedly asked his girlfriend Selena Gomez to move into his house here. As per a report in hollywoodlife.com, Bieber, who rekindled his romance with Gomez recently...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Smoking causes urological diseases
Vienna, Sep 19 (IANS) Smoking leads to a number of urological diseases, experts said. Reduced fertility, impotence, and bladder carcinoma are problems caused by smoking, the Association of Austrian Urologists (BVU)...
Read more on Business Balla
 
Lily Allen shares tips for applying eyeliner
London, Sep 19 (IANS) Singer Lily Allen may have popular make-up artists taking care of her looks, but she knows it takes practise to perfect the art of applying eyeliner. In an interview with Now magazine, she said "...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Baek readies himself for Asia-Pacific Golf Championship
Tokyo, Sep 19 (IANS) Korea's Baek Seuk-hyun is relishing the prospect of teeing up against some of the best players from the Asian Tour and Japan at next week's Asia-Pacific Open Golf Championship Diamond Cup....
Read more on Sport Balla
 
'No losers, only partners with Afghan unity government'
United Nations, Sep 19 (IANS) Head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), Jan Kubis said there is "no better way forward" other than a unity government in the crisis-torn country. "There is no better way...
Read more on Politics Balla