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U.S. Supreme Court

Does Facebook threat conviction require intent? SCOTUS to decide

Posted Jun 17, 2014 7:07 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to consider whether threats made on the Internet can result in a federal conviction absent proof of the defendant’s intent to threaten.

The court will review the conviction of Anthony Elonis, whose violent Facebook rants included the lyrics of Eminem and a satirical sketch by The Whitest Kids U' Know comedy troupe, report USA Today, SCOTUSblog and the Washington Post. Elonis wrote about killing his estranged wife, an FBI agent investigating his posts and former co-workers at an amusement park.

“There’s one way to love you but a thousand ways to kill you,” he wrote in a post addressing his wife. “I’m not going to rest until your body is a mess, soaked in blood and dying from all the little cuts.”

In his profile, Elonis said his posts were only “fictitious lyrics” and he was exercising his free-speech rights.

Elonis contends the First Amendment bars prosecution unless he had a subjective intent to threaten. Prosecutors say the proper standard is whether an objective person would deem the posts to be threats. He was prosecuted under a federal threats law that is similar to statutes in many states, according to USA Today.

The case is Elonis v. United States. The SCOTUSblog case page is here.

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