First Amendment

Evidence supports blogger's conviction for deserve-to-die rant against judges, appeals court says


A New York-based appeals court has upheld the conviction of an Internet radio host for a blog rant in which he said three federal appeals judges deserved to die.

Harold Turner was sentenced to 33 months in prison after his 2010 conviction for threatening to assault or kill the judges with the intent to impede them in their duties. In an opinion (PDF) released today, the New York City-based 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the evidence was sufficient to support the conviction, report How Appealing and Reuters. “The evidence was more than sufficient,” the court said in a 2-1 opinion, “for a jury to conclude that Turner’s statements were not ‘political hyperbole,’ as he contended, but violent threats against the judges’ lives.”

Turner had directed his remarks at three judges on the Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals who ruled the Second Amendment didn’t apply to the states, including Judge Richard Posner. “If they are allowed to get away with this by surviving,” Turner wrote in 2009, “other judges will act the same way. These judges deserve to be made such an example of as to send a message to the entire judiciary: Obey the Constitution or die.” He also posted the judges’ photos, work addresses and room numbers.

Judge Rosemary Pooler wrote in a dissent that Turner’s speech was not a true threat under the First Amendment.

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