“No Threat?” Roberts’ Court facebook & cyberstalking un-reasonable person ruling


Roberts’ Court  reversed and remanded 730 F. 3d. 321

ROBERTS, C. J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which SCALIA,
ALITO, J., filed an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part.
THOMAS, J., filed a dissenting opinion.

Supreme Court Summary 

“After his wife left him, petitioner Anthony Douglas Elonis, under the pseudonym “Tone Dougie,” used the social networking Web site Facebook to post self-styled rap lyrics containing graphically violent language and imagery concerning his wife, co-workers, a kindergarten class, and state and federal law enforcement. These posts were often interspersed with disclaimers that the lyrics were “fictitious” and not intended to depict real persons, and with statements that Elonis was exercising his First Amendment rights. Many who knew him saw his posts as threatening, however, including his boss, who fired him for threatening co-workers, and his wife, who sought and was granted a state court protection-from-abuse order against him. When Elonis’s former employer informed the Federal Bureau of Investigation of the posts, the agency began monitoring Elonis’s Facebook activity and eventually arrested him. He was charged with five counts of violating 18 U. S. C. §875(c), which makes it a federal crime to transmit in interstate commerce “any communication containing any threat . . . to injure the person of another.” At trial, Elonis requested a jury instruction that the Government was required to prove that he intended to communicate a “true threat.” Instead, the District Court told the jury that Elonis could be found guilty if a reasonable person would foresee that his statements would be interpreted as a threat. Elonis was convicted on four of the five counts and renewed his jury instruction challenge on appeal. The Third Circuit affirmed, holding that Section 875(c) requires only the intent to communicate words that the defendant understands, and that a reasonable person would view as a threat.”

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