elonis

Washingtonpost.com:

The Supreme Court on Monday made it harder for prosecutors to convict those who make violent statements on Facebook and other social media, saying it is not enough that an ordinary person would find the rants threatening.

In its first examination of the murky rules regarding conduct on the Internet, the court moved cautiously while throwing out the conviction of a Pennsylvania man whose postings, delivered in rap-lyric style, suggested killing his estranged wife, federal law enforcement officials and even a kindergarten class.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., noting that Anthony Douglas Elonis had said he intended his postings to be fictitious and even therapeutic, said a defendant’s state of mind had to be considered.

 

But the opinion offered little in the way of specifics about what must be proved for a conviction, and Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. criticized the opinion as more confusing than enlightening.

Does this mean I can just post anything on this blog and there are no consequences?  Have I been careful for years for no reason?   Elonis was fairly descriptive in his “rap music.”  Let’s check out some of his “artistry”:

Writing about his estranged wife, Tara, Elonis had posted: “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.”

or

Prosecutors said there was no doubt Elonis was doing that on his Facebook feed during a two-month period in 2010. His wife had left with their two children, and Elonis, then 27 and working at an Allentown amusement park, grew increasingly despondent and angry.

He was fired and responded with a post about being a nuclear bomb about to explode. He pondered making a name for himself by shooting up an elementary school.

That brought a visit from an FBI agent, and the prolific Elonis later posted a fantasy about slitting the agent’s throat and turning her   into a “ghost.”

He sounds serious to me.  I would find the FBI and local police very remiss if they didn’t investigate these threatening sounding words.  How are we supposed to interpret his words?

I never thought I would be agreeing with Justices Thomas or Alito.  What were the other 7 thinking?  Elonis served 36 out of the 44 months he was convicted.  I feel a little bit close to danger after today.  Perhaps there simply are no more standards of decency.

Then there is FAcebook.  What happens if they try to close this clown’s account?  His account is still open under Anthony Douglas Elonis.  Will Facebook  be sued for violating his freedom of expression if they close his account?  There are limits to the First Amendment…or at least there used to be.

I believe a very dangerous precedent was set today.  Here is yet another confusing ruling.  The lines are so blurred that no one will do anything when people are threatened.

Shame on the Supremes, for ruling on whatever bass-ackward  ruling Elonis was.  They did absolutely nothing but erase the lines of safety from violent psychopaths.

 

17 thoughts on “Elonis: The Supremes effed up

  1. Lyssa

    Sorry ma’am, until your ex-husband actually commits a crime (kills you), there’s nothing we can do.

    Lovely.

  2. Pat.Herve

    Two very bad decisions out of SCOTUS yesterday. This one and the ‘other’ one where an employer is supposed to assume that a person has a religious reason for things like how they dress.

    1. That one was totally stupid also. I suppose if Hooters hires you, you can show up in a burqa and they can’t fire you?

      I would like to say no religious symbols at work(unless the job is in a religious environment) and no perfume.

  3. Ed Myers

    Speech alone is not threatening. Some actions indicating intent need to go with the speech to make it threatening. (e.g. bringing weapons in situations one normally doesn’t.)

    Violent metaphors by themselves have no capacity to hurt others: “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me.”

    That said, if someone was saying this to me I’d ask bluntly if any of those violent images could become reality and want multiple second opinions from mental health professionals before ignoring the tirades.

    I predict a new genre of violent anti-Obama screeds on the internet since an arrest by the SS is less likely now based on this SCOTUS ruling.

    1. If I were you, I would spell out Secret Service. It looks like you are referring to Nazi SS.

      No one wants to wait to be killed to seek protection. Speech alone can be very threatening. If someone tells me they are going to kill me, I believe them. We aren’t animals. Our speech I what sets us apart.

      If I issue threats via this blog, or if someone else does and I don’t take them down, I promise you the cops will be at my door. They should be. A blog or Facebook are pretty much like an open letter or buying a page in a newspaper. I think SCOTUS is insane. I have pretty much lost all respect.

      This ruling dealt a horrible blow to law enforcement.

  4. I think we Virginians might have paid for this stupid case.

    I found this link on this fool’s FB page.

    http://www.newsplex.com/home/headlines/UVa-Law-Clinic-to-Argue–281596451.html?ref=451

    Third year UVA law students took this case to the Supreme Court via the UVA law clinic.

  5. Ed Myers

    Had the ruling gone the other way all I’d have to say is “oh you scare me” and call the cops on anyone whose speech offends me. Some might say the existence of gays threaten them and call the cops on anyone “acting” gay or wearing a rainbow. That is too close to a police state and thought control. There has to be intent for physical and emotional harm. Cops might need to investigate to determine intent (which is why it isn’t a good idea to post threatening speech) but unless they find intent (recent purchase of gun, knife, duct tape, etc.) they can close the case.

    1. Ed, sometimes I think you live in lala land. You need to remember that the default was that you could be convicted for posting violent thoughts against individuals in social media. That’s how what’s his name ended up in jail for 36 months. Since release, he has attacked his girlfriend’s mother with a pan. Now, do you think someone who posts stuff like that on Facebook is really wrapped too tight in the first place?

      I am horrified at this decision. We had enough trouble in the past determining who might or might not go shoot up a place or commit murder or mas murder. Now it becomes even more tricky.

  6. Ed Myers

    I’m not saying this this guy’s content combined with other facts didn’t constitute a threat. The lower court might find intent in most cases now that it is required.

    What the SCOTUS ruling prohibits is for the government to prosecute someone for copying his lyrics and pasting them on a web somewhere.

    The rule you seem to like is that any speech that reasonable people would find threatening could be punished or censored. Now you have to prove that the speech is a precursor to actual violence and not just a fantasy. We should always err on the side of more speech.

    I don’t think this is going to prevent prosecution of someone who has a violent past but it will keep innocent people from being persecuted for describing their strange or unconventional thoughts.

  7. George S. Harris

    Make such a threat to the president and see who comes knocking at your door. I agree that the SCOTUS has made a wrong decision that can only serve to increase the amount and type of hate speech on social media. I wonder what they would have done had said, “I’m going to start killing every member of the Supreme Court or any court that attempts to convict me because of my threats.” Do you think someone would have been knocking at this door?

  8. Steve Thomas

    I believe this falls under the “idle threat” category. Unless someone has the Ability, Opportunity, and is in proximity to bring jeopardy, words alone do not constitute an immediate threat. But, there are other laws, such as cyber-stalking, that can be used in cases like this.

    If someone is making threats on social media, perhaps the 1st Amendment does protect them from arrest. However, it shouldn’t prevent the target of the threat from getting an order of protection/restraining order, or that individual being barred from a private/public place, like a school, if the threat is made against a location.

    Still and all, the internet, blogs, and social media has sure highlighted the fact that there are many, many sick people in our society.

    1. No kidding. I would think an ex wife would be very vulnerable as would a LEO who investigating his behavior.

      I think it was a very poor ruling.

      This guy’s conviction was actually overturned.

  9. Steve Thomas

    @Moon-howler

    The sad part of this is, regardless of which side of the argument you are on, only a tiny fraction of the electorate is watching this, and even fewer care. Most are more concerned with Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner’s big coming out. Panem et Circenses.

    1. I am so sick of hearing about Bruce/Caitlyn I could scream.

      You are right, Steve. I have mentioned this decision to several people I consider to be informed and they stared at me. Go figure.

  10. George S. Harris

    Did you see Corey Stewart’s piece about the the Derecho “threat” to Melissa Peacorin Firday’s (6/5/15) “Prince William Today”? Stewart says: “However, this post crossed the line from angry criticism to insinuation of violence. The warning of repercussions coupled with the pointed gun elevated this from a constituent complaint to an intimidating statement meant to provoke fear.

    In the aftermath of this, it’s been tempting for some to dismiss the matter After all, this was on the internet where most anything goes, right? Wrong. When someone genuinely believe they have been targeted by a statement that indicates intent to harm and that induces fear, then the person making the statement has crossed the line. Too many tragic cases exist where real threats were ignored and serious harm resulted, that might have been prevented.”

    Well, apparently Mr. Stewart has not kept abreast of the SCOTUS decision in the case of Anthony Douglas Elonis. While I ABSOLUTELY DO NOT AGREE with the SCOTUS decision, the court has said that a threat without the demonstrated means to carry it out is just that, a meaningless threat. Such is the case with the Derecho yet the PWC Police were dispatched to question (and intimidate) him. I abhor the Derecho’s posts and those of The Sheriff of Nottingham and Greg Letique that are constantly filled with hate. The Derecho and the Sheriff are so cowardly that they must hide behind a “nom de plume”; however, The Derecho is apparently known.

    My point here-what The Derecho was WRONG because of the HATE, Melissa Peacor was WRONG because The Derecho did not demonstrate the means to carry out what might be considered a threat and Corey Stewart is WRONG for fanning the flames in the news media. What Stewart should have concentrated on, IMVHO, is the increasing amount of HATE being propagated in blogs. While many may not care for what Al Alborn writes, I will say one thing for him-he puts his name on what he does and he does not accept anonymous postings. That, again IMVHO, is the way to conduct blogs. Anonmymity is the coward’s way out.

    1. I was not planning on commenting on any of this. However, I think a couple of things need clearing up. The SCOTUS case was over a conviction for a threat. I see where it has no bearing on the local case whatsoever.

      The Derecho was not arrested nor convicted of anything.

      Look at it this way, if things aren’t investigated, how would we ever know if a threat were real or not. It was determined that the local case was not a threat. An ounce of prevention and all that.

      About Al…you might agree or disagree with him but he isn’t rude and rarely attacks people. And yes, he signs his name.

      I didn’t see Corey’s post nor did I read it. However, I think the situation has gotten so much attention that it is not inappropriate for him to speak out on it as the chairman of the BOCS.

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