Is This Free Speech or Not? [PHIL-OSOPHY]
Put your lawyering skills to the test. Here's the case: someone tweets that he would give $500 to anyone who would kill a federal ICE officer. The defendant's lawyer claims a threatening social media post is constitutionally protected speech. The prosecution says they never hesitate to prosecute threats against law enforcement officers.
The defense argues that his client's comments were protected political speech that have been blown out of proportion by the prosecution. In one of his tweets to about 400 Twitter followers, the defendant writes, "I am broke but will scrounge and literally give $500 to anyone who kills an ICE agent. @me Seriously who else can pledge, get in on this - let's make it work."
The defendant's counsel said this was just a bad joke, made in jest, and that the government turned it into a federal case.
The prosecution countered that this guy's tweet crossed the line into a true threat not protected by the First Amendment. This was a solicitation to commit murder, and nothing in the tweet suggests he was joking or being sarcastic.
So now it's your turn to reach a decision. The central question here is whether this guy's tweet was intended to communicate a true threat or he at least knew that it could be interpreted by others that way. It's time for you to sit in judgement.
If I were a member of that jury, I'd rule against the guy who tweeted the threat.
From the AP's Philip Marcelo: "A man who tweeted that he would give $500 to anyone who would kill a federal immigration officer was acquitted Friday in a case that centered on whether a threatening social media post is protected speech. A federal jury at U.S. District Court in Boston cleared Brandon Ziobrowski, 35 of New York City. He had faced up to five years in prison and a fine of as much as $250,000 if convicted."
If you know someone in law enforcement, have them read this.
Phil Paleologos is the host of The Phil Paleologos Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. Contact him at phil@wbsm and follow him on Twitter @PhilPaleologos. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.