WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday threw out the conviction of a Pennsylvania man found guilty of making threatening statements on Facebook to his estranged wife, law enforcement officers and others.
U.S. top court throws out Pennsylvania man's conviction for Facebook threats -- This article courtesy of Reuters.
The court ruled on an 8-1 vote in favor of Anthony Elonis, who served prison time for posting a series of statements on the social media site in 2010 after his wife left him. Seven justices voted to throw out his conviction, while Justice Samuel Alito said he would have sent the case back to the appeals court for it to decide.
Elonis’ Facebook posts, written in the form of rap lyrics, talked about killing his wife, knifing an female FBI agent and shooting schoolchildren. After a court granted his wife a protective order against him, Elonis posted: "Is it thick enough to stop a bullet?"
The justices ruled that in order to prosecute Elonis, it was not sufficient that a reasonable person would have interpreted the remarks as threatening but rather that Elonis had to have intended the words as threats.
"Federal criminal liability generally does not turn solely on the results of an act without considering the defendant's mental state," Chief Justice John Roberts wrote of behalf of the court.
The case touched upon the rise of social media and how people use it to express strongly held feelings. But the legal question decided by the court was that Elonis needed to be aware of the threatening nature of his communication in order to be convicted. Lower courts had said he could be culpable regardless of whether he believed his messages could be viewed as threatening.
Justice Clarence Thomas was the only member of the court who would have upheld the conviction outright. He criticized the court’s reasoning, saying it "throws everyone from appellate judges to everyday Facebook users into a state of uncertainty."
Alito partially disagreed with the outcome, saying the appeals court should be given another opportunity to decide whether the conviction could be upheld.
Elonis was convicted of violating a federal law that outlaws sending a threatening communication and was sentenced to 44 months in prison.
The case is Elonis v. USA, U.S. Supreme Court, 13-983.
(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Will Dunham)
CERT. GRANTED 6/16/2014
It is a federal crime to "transmit in interstate or foreign commerce any communication containing * * * any threat to injure the person of another," 18 U.S.C. § 875(c). Numerous states have adopted analogous crimes. The question presented is:
Whether, consistent with the First Amendment and Virginia v. Black, 538 U.S. 343 (2003), conviction of threatening another person requires proof of the defendant's subjective intent to threaten, as required by the Ninth Circuit and the supreme courts of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Vermont; or whether it is enough to show that a "reasonable person" would regard the statement as threatening, as held by other federal courts of appeals and state courts of last resort.
This certainly seems like an important decision for my criminal case. To be convicted of violating a protective order, the prosecution would have to show that I intended to violate a protective order -- had criminal intent. There was no intent to violate anything, so the prosecutors should simply dismiss the charges
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Bill Windsor set out to film a movie exposing government, judicial, and law enforcement corruption. He traveled to every state (except Alaska), and he filmed over 750 stories of corruption and has thousands more who wanted to be filmed. Evil people, some working for various government entities and committing crimes, set out to destroy Bill Windsor and the movie, Lawless America. Bill Windsor has been defamed online in the largest case of defamation in U.S. history. His life has been threatened many times. A UNIVERSITY OF MONTANA EMPLOYEE, Sean Boushie, attempted to murder Bill Windsor. Sean Boushie then falsely claimed that Bill stalked him, threatened him with a gun, and a host of other lies. Corrupt courts gave Sean Boushie a Temporary Order of Protection. It expired on September 16, 2013, but corrupt Montana and Texas folks pretended it still existed, and a bench warrant was issued for unsuspecting Bill.
Bill Windsor was put into the Ellis County Texas Jail illegally for 53 days as a political prisoner -- held for extradition. William M. Windsor was then unlawfully held in the Ada County Idaho Jail for 35 days and then illegally handed over to two Missoula County Montana Sheriff's Deputies on March 25, 2015. He was held there for 46 days (a grand total of 134 days behind bars). He escaped (on bond) at 11:30 am on May 9, 2015.
The State of Montana has filed five criminal charges against William M. Windsor for sending a Tweet, publishing the UNIVERSITY OF MONTANA EMPLOYEE's name (the would-be killer Sean Boushie) four times, sending a legal notice email to a University of Montana attorney, and filming the movie and the pilot for a TV show that will expose Montana as the most corrupt state in the country. “Law enforcement” had LawlessAmerica.com removed from the Internet. This website contains over 1,400 articles exposing corruption. Bill Windsor worked with a friendly offshore hosting company to return the website to the Internet outside the clutches of American evildoers. He wasn't so lucky when Facebook removed the movie page falsely claiming it promoted nudity, pornography, and solicitation of sex ... or when AT&T canceled the email that he used on everything related to the movie for years falsely claiming he violated their Terms of Service.
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