Criminal

United States v. Weaver

Date: 

06/11/2009

Threat Type: 

Criminal Charge

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Jeffrey Lynn Weaver

Type of Party: 

Government

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

Federal

Court Name: 

United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia

Case Number: 

7:09-cr-00032

Legal Counsel: 

Fay Francis Spence (Federal Public Defender's Office WDVA); LLoyd Bradford Bradford (L. Brad Bradford P.C.)

Publication Medium: 

Website

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Pending

Disposition: 

Convicted

Description: 

On June 11, 2009, Jeffrey Weaver was criminally indicted for statements he posted to InfoWars.com that threatened a California transit police officer and threatened the officer's family.  InfoWars.com is a website run by talk radio host Alex Jones.

According to the affidavit by the FBI officer who investigated the case, on January 7, 2009, an anonymous poster using the name "FuckThePIGS" posted a comment on InfoWars.com that identified Officer Johannes Mehserle by name and address, and made threatening statements about killing officer Mehserle and his wife and baby.  Officer Mehserle is a former Bay Area Transit Authority (BART) officer who has been criminally charged for a controversial shooting in January, 2009, that was caught on video.

Using IP records provided by an InfoWars administrator, the FBI was able to identify the poster as Jeffery Weaver, of Roanoke, Virginia.  Weaver was indicted in the United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia.

On August 14, 2009, Weaver pleaded guilty to one count of transmitting in interstate commerce a threat to injure a person, as well as one count of willful copyright infringement.  His sentencing hearing is set for December 14, 2009.

Jurisdiction: 

CMLP Notes: 

RB 11/12/09- No info available in docket about the copyright infrigement charge.  Likely arose out of something found on his computer which was confiscated in the search.  

Priority: 

1-High

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

United States v. Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty, USA, Inc.

Date: 

05/20/2004

Threat Type: 

Criminal Charge

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty, USA, Inc., Kevin Kjonas, Lauren Gazzola, Jacob Conroy, Joshua Harper, Andrew Stapanian, Darius Fullmer

Type of Party: 

Government

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization

Court Type: 

Federal

Court Name: 

United States District Court for the District of New Jersey; United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit

Case Number: 

04-cr-00373 (trial); 06-4447 (appeal)

Legal Counsel: 

H. Louis Sirkin, Michael A. Armstrong (for Lauren Gazzola); David L. Rhoads (trial), Eric Schneider (trial), Isabel McGinty (trial), Robert G. Stahl (trial and appeal), Laura K. Gasiorowski (appeal) (for Kevin Kjonaas); James Murphy, Peter Goldberger

Publication Medium: 

Website

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Pending

Disposition: 

Convicted

Description: 

On March 2, 2006, Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC) and six of its members were convicted of terrorism and Internet stalking under the Animal Enterprise Protection Act. The group was charged with engaging in various forms of harassment and intimidation of people associated with Huntingdon Life Sciences in an attempt to shut down the company's animal testing activities.

During the trial, the government did not present evidence that the individual defendants directly participated in any acts of vandalism and violence. Instead, the prosecution pointed to web postings by, and video of, the members celebrating the acts and using the word "we" to claim credit for the conduct.

On appeal, the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit affirmed the conviction on October 14, 2009, finding that the Animal Enterprise Protection Act was constitutional on its face and as applied to the defendants. In particular, the court found that links on the SHAC website to tools that facilitated (illegal) virtual sit-ins were clearly intended to incite imminent, lawless conduct, and that such conduct was likely to occur, and thus were not protected speech.

It is not clear whether the defendant's have petitioned the Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari.

Jurisdiction: 

CMLP Notes: 

Under review, HF 11/4/2009

SB 11/20/09 -- to do, somebody should check for cert and mark concluded if there was no petition.  Can just check westlaw in a month or so. 

Priority: 

1-High

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Florida v. RateMyCop.com

Date: 

05/01/2008

Threat Type: 

Subpoena

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

RateMyCop.com

Type of Party: 

Government

Type of Party: 

Organization

Court Type: 

State

Publication Medium: 

Forum

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Subpoena Enforced

Description: 

The Tallahassee Police Department subpoenaed records from RateMyCop.com after an anonymous user posted the name, address, and telephone number of a Tallahassee police officer on the site, according to Wired. When the authorities obtained identifying information for the poster, they arrested and charged Robert Brayshaw with a violation of Fla. Stat. § 843.17. Section 843.17 prohibits publication of a law enforcement officer's residential address or telephone number with the intent to intimidate, hinder, or interrupt any law enforcement officer in the legal performance of his or her duties.

A state court judge ultimately dismissed the charges against Brayshaw with prejudice for failure to comply with Florida's speedy trial requirements. Brayshaw then filed a complaint in federal court in Florida, seeking a declaration that Section 843.17 violates the First Amendment. 

Jurisdiction: 

Priority: 

1-High

CMLP Notes: 

EK - editing [10/23/2009] (also related entry State of Florida v. Brayshaw: http://www.citmedialaw.org/threats/state-florida-v-brayshaw)

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Florida v. Brayshaw

Date: 

05/01/2008

Threat Type: 

Criminal Charge

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Robert A. Brayshaw

Type of Party: 

Government

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

State

Legal Counsel: 

James Green

Publication Medium: 

Forum

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Dismissed (total)
Subpoena Enforced

Description: 

Florida state authorities charged Robert Brayshaw with a misdemeanor for violating Fla. Stat. § 843.17 after he anonymously posted the name, address, and telephone number of a Tallahassee Police Department officer on RateMyCop.com.  Section 843.17 prohibits publication of a law enforcement officer's residential address or telephone number with the intent to intimidate, hinder, or interrupt any law enforcement officer in the legal performance of his or her duties.  The Tallahassee police obtained Brayshaw's identity after subpoenaing records from RateMyCop.com and Brayshaw's ISP, according to Wired.

Prosecutors voluntarily dropped the charges on December 9 and then refiled 10 days later, according to an article on RateMyCop.com. The state court judge ultimately dismissed the charges with prejudice for failure to comply with Florida's speedy trial requirements. Brayshaw then filed a complaint in federal court in Florida, seeking a declaration that Section 843.17 violates the First Amendment. According to Brayshaw's complaint, the police officer's name and address are publicly available on the Leon County Clerk of Court's website.  On April 30, 2010, Judge Smoak issued a decision striking down Section 843.17 as unconstitutional under the First and Fourteenth Amendments.

Jurisdiction: 

Priority: 

1-High

CMLP Notes: 

EK - editing [10/23/2009]

EK - updating [11/13/2009]; also look at related entry State of Florida v. Ratemycop.com

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Showing Cyberbullying No Mercy in the Show Me State

On the broad grade-school spectrum of the bullies and the bullied, I tended to fall closer to the bullied side of things.  Fortunately, I quickly proved taller than average — thus harder to intimidate — and smarter than average — thus more useful as a source for homework help than as a target for abuse — so the bullies moved on to other targets.  Still, although not subjected to it much myself, I got to see a fair amount of bullying in my youth.

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

United States v. Turner

Date: 

06/24/2009

Threat Type: 

Criminal Charge

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Hal Turner

Type of Party: 

Government

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

Federal

Court Name: 

United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois; United States District Court for the District of New Jersey; United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York

Case Number: 

1:09-cr-00542

Legal Counsel: 

Michael Andrew Orozco - Bailey & Orozco; Nishay Kumar Sanan

Publication Medium: 

Blog

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Pending

Description: 

-

In June 2009, federal authorities in Chicago charged right-wing New Jersey blogger and Internet radio host Hal Turner with threatening "to assault and murder three United States judges with intent to retaliate against [them] on account of performance of official duties," in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 115(a)(1)(B).

Turner wrote postings on June 2 and 3 calling on his readers to take action in response to a ruling issued by a panel of Seventh Circuit judges.  According to the criminal complaint and indictment, Turner wrote that "These judges deserve to be killed" and posted pictures of the judges, their work addresses, and a photo of the federal building where they work.  Turner pled not guilty to the charges.

In September 2009, a federal judge in Chicago transferred the case to the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey. The trial was then transferred to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York, in Brooklyn, but with a federal judge from Louisiana -- U.S. District Court Judge Donald Walter of  the United States District Court for the Western District of Louisiana-- presiding.

The trial, which began December 1, 2009, ended with a mistrial after a day and a half of testimony and a day and a half of deliberations, when the jury announced that it was deadlocked.

The retrial is scheduled to begin March 1, 2010.

Update:

03/10/2010 - The AP reports that the court declared a second mistrial on Wednesday, March 10 due to juror deadlock. 

Jurisdiction: 

CMLP Notes: 

AVM- same turner as Connecticut v. Turner.

Priority: 

1-High

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Connecticut v. Turner

Date: 

06/11/2009

Threat Type: 

Criminal Charge

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Harold Turner

Type of Party: 

Government

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Name: 

Connecticut Superior Court

Case Number: 

HHD -CR09-0632655-T

Legal Counsel: 

Michael Andrew Orozco - Bailey & Orozco

Publication Medium: 

Blog

Status: 

Pending

Description: 

In June 2009, state authorities in Connecticut charged right-wing New Jersey blogger and Internet radio host Hal Turner with inciting injury to person or property, a class C felony.  According to press accounts, Turner urged readers to "take up arms" against two state legislators who introduced a controversial bill on Catholic parish finances.  According to NJ.com:

"It is our intent to foment direct action against these individuals personally," Turner wrote. "These beastly government officials should be made an example of as a warning to others in government: Obey the Constitution or die."

In the next paragraph, Turner added: "If any state attorney, police department or court thinks they're going to get uppity with us about this, I suspect we have enough bullets to put them down too."

Turner's attorney told the First Amendment Center that  "the case is about freedom of speech. 

Turner was released on $500 bail.

Update:

06/24/09 - Turner was charged by federal authorities in Illinois for a separate incident, in which he allegedly incited his listeners to kill 7th Circuit judges. See our database entry, United States v. Turner.

Priority: 

1-High

CMLP Notes: 

6/24/09 AVM - added complaint, Turner now charged for other threats, might mean a delay in this case.

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Jurisdiction: 

United States v. Does

Date: 

06/02/2009

Threat Type: 

Subpoena

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Does 1-4

Type of Party: 

Government

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

Federal

Court Name: 

United States District Court for the District of Nevada

Case Number: 

2:09-cv-1083

Legal Counsel: 

Allen Lichtenstein, Judy C. Cox, Lee B. Rowland, Margaret A. McLetchie - ACLU of Nevada (for Defendants Does 1-3); Margaret A. McLetchie - ACLU of Nevada (for Defendant Doe 4)

Publication Medium: 

Website

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Pending

Disposition: 

Subpoena Enforced

Description: 

After anonymous users posted allegedly threatening comments to a Las Vegas Review-Journal (LVRJ) article about an ongoing federal criminal trial (the "Kahre case"), the US Attorney in that case issued a grand jury subpoena seeking information about all public commenters on that thread.  On June 16, 2009, the subpoena was narrowed, seeking personal information related only to two comments from the LVRJ article.

The two comments at issue are as follows:

  • "I bid 10 Quatloos that Christoper Maietta [one of the prosecutors in the Kahre case] does not celebrate his next birthday."
  • "The sad thing is there are 12 dummies on the jury who will convict him.  They should also be hung along with the feds."

(Amended Mot. to Quash 3).

On June 16, the ACLU of Nevada filed a motion to intervene on behalf of three John Does, along with motions to quash and for a protective order.  On June 22, amended versions of all three motions were filed, and a fourth John Doe was added.  The ACLU maintains that the comments are protected speech under the First Amendment because they are "in no way revealing of any criminal activity."  (Amended Mot. to Quash 3-4.)

On June 18, between the ACLU's initial and amended motions to intervene and quash, the LVRJ complied with the narrowed subpoena and turned over identifying information to the US Attorney's office.  The US Attorney filed a motion to dismiss on June 26, stating that the ACLU's motion to quash was moot.

In its July 13 response to the US Attorney's motion to dismiss, the ACLU claims that the issue is not moot, as the court may still provide the Does with relief despite the LVRJ's compliance with the subpoena.  Specifically, they suggest the court might prevent the use of any information gleaned from the subpoena, order all personal information that resulted from the subpoena be destroyed, and/or issue a protective order to "prevent future abuses of the grand jury subpoena to obtain information about critics of the government's position in the Kahre case."  (Response to Mot. to Dismiss 2.)

Jurisdiction: 

CMLP Notes: 

AVM- Though LVRJ is not being charged, I assume they may act as third party intervenors in these requests

6/24/09 Update AVM added article on ACLU's proposed motion to quash subpoena and remove judge

8/10/2009 - LB editing 

Priority: 

1-High

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Cybernetic Cain: In the Eyes of the Internet Law, You Are Your Brother’s Keeper

CainLet’s review the two basics of modern criminal law:

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

Judge Issues Opinion Overturning Lori Drew's Conviction

As originally reported by Orin Kerr at The Volokh Conspiracy, a federal district judge in California issued an opinion on Friday overturning the jury verdict finding Lori Drew guilty of a misdemeanor violation of the Computer Fraud

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

Out of the Frying Pan and into the Mildly Uncomfortable Sauna: The Not-So-Bad-But-Still-Unconstitutional Social Networking Ban

 

 

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

Cousins v. Orr

Date: 

04/07/2009

Threat Type: 

Criminal Investigation

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Jeremy Orr; Orr's Brother

Type of Party: 

Government

Type of Party: 

Individual

Publication Medium: 

Website

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Withdrawn

Description: 

Erie, Pennsylvania police officers allegedly threatened Jeremy Orr and/0r his brother with a federal wiretapping charge if he did not remove a video from YouTube.  The video, which was shot in a bar on Orr's cell phone, showed one of the officers, James Cousins, making fun of a recent homicide victim.

In April 2009, Erie Police Chief Steve Franklin  learned of the video. As a result, the department assigned James DeDionisio to determine if Cousins' behavior violated conduct standards. Franklin also asked YouTube to remove the video, because he worried that "[p]eople [would] look at this and say, 'Geez, is that what the Erie cops are like?'" YouTube refused to do so without a request from an original poster.

DeDionisio and Cousins allegedly questioned Orr's brother on April 6 and threatened him with a federal wiretapping violation if he or his brother did not remove the video.  (Orr's brother did not disclose his name to the press out of fear for police reprisals.) DeDionisio and Cousin deny that they issued that threat.

District Attorney Brad Foulk stated that he thought a wire tapping charge under the circumstances "is absolutely preposterous," adding that "I would never consider charging this person with a wiretap violation." The police allegely contacted Foulk's office to request a court order for the removal of the video. Foulk claims that his lead detective told the police "we could not do it and would not do it." 

It appears that to date, no charges have been filed against Orr or his brother.

Jurisdiction: 

Priority: 

1-High

CMLP Notes: 

Source: Carlos Miller (Photography is Not a Crime blog)

AVM 6/4 looks like there was no lawsuit, so im not sure what to do with this. 

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Florida Sees Gangs in Social Networks, and Prosecutes

In what appears to be the first use of a new Florida law that criminalizes the promotion of gangs on the Internet, the Lee County Sheriff’s Office arrested 15 men over the contents of their MySpace pages, which prosecutors claim advertised and promoted gang membership.

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

Florida v. Figueroa-Santiago

Date: 

11/14/2008

Threat Type: 

Criminal Charge

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Omar Figueroa-Santiago; Elvis Eladio Rodriguez; Obduella David Soto

Type of Party: 

Government

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Circuit Court, Lee County, Florida

Case Number: 

08-CF-021458 (Figueroa-Santiago); 08-CF-000169 (Rodriguez); 08-CF-021455 (Soto)

Legal Counsel: 

Joseph Cerino (for Rodriguez ); Gary Hines (for Figueroa-Santiago)

Publication Medium: 

Social Network

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Pending

Description: 

The State of Florida filed criminal charges against three men for allegedly violating a state law prohibiting the promotion of gang activity over the Internet. The statute, Fla. Stat. 874.11, was adopted on June 30, 2008 as part of the "Criminal Gang Prevention Act," and became effective October 1, 2008. The statute provides:

874.11  Electronic communication.--Any person who, for the purpose of benefiting, promoting, or furthering the interests of a criminal gang, uses electronic communication to intimidate or harass other persons, or to advertise his or her presence in the community, including, but not limited to, such activities as distributing, selling, transmitting, or posting on the Internet any audio, video, or still image of criminal activity, commits a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084.

Violators face a maximum of five years in prison.  The three defendants were arrested in November 2008, along with 12 others.  "Richard Figueroa-Santiago, 22, and Elvis Rodriguez, 30, are accused of posting pictures of themselves making gang hand signals and wearing colors associated with the Latin Kings," according to the Naples Daily News

Lawyers for Figueroa-Santiago and Rodriguez filed motions to dismiss the case, arguing that the statute violates the First Amendment.  Judge Ramiro Mañalich heard arguments on the motions on August 4, 2009, and reserved decision.  The third defendant, Obduella David Soto, did not file a motion to dismiss.

Update:

9/2009 - Soto joins in the motions to dismiss.

1/8/2010 - Judge Mañalich denies the motions to dismiss.

1/12/2010 -  Soto pleads no lo contendre to the charges against him.

Jurisdiction: 

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

First Amendment Protects TechCrunch's Publication of (Some) Hacked Twitter Documents

There's an interesting debate afoot about TechCrunch's decision to publish selected documents it received from someone who hacked into the email accounts of Twitter CEO Evan Williams and other Twitter employees.

Subject Area: 

Hawaii v. Wong-Fernandez

Date: 

11/12/2008

Threat Type: 

Criminal Charge

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Rhonda Wong-Fernandez

Type of Party: 

Government

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Oah'u Circuit Court

Case Number: 

1PC08-1-001761

Legal Counsel: 

Alan John Tatsuo Komogome

Publication Medium: 

Social Network

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Convicted

Description: 

The state of Hawaii indicted Rhonda Wong-Fernandez, a former clerical assistant, on the charge of unauthorized computer access in the first degree after she allegedly accessed a female patient's medical records and posted on a MySpace page that the patient had HIV. 

The government alleged that Wong-Fernandez illegally accessed the medical records of a patient with whom her sister was feuding. Wong-Fernandez allegedly wrote on a MySpace page "no wonder she's so pale. She's dying of aids. Poor thing, she has HIV. That's why she's hating. . . . I hope she dies." 

On March 31, 2009, Wong-Fernandez pled no contest to the charge of unauthorized computer access in the first degree, apologized in court, and asked for no jail time. Prosecutors asked for one month of imprisonment. The court disagreed with the sentencing recommendations of both parties and instead sentenced Wong-Fernandez to one year in prison, five years probation, and 200 hours of community service. The judge reportedly said during sentencing that "people in this society have to realize that the Internet is not something that can be taken advantage of. You can't use the Internet to do unlawful conduct."

Jurisdiction: 

CMLP Notes: 

AVM 6/19/09- The Court Website (search for wong-fernandez) is very slow and has only summaries, no images. not on WL

 

Priority: 

1-High

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Drew (Tentatively) Acquitted in MySpace Suicide Case

A federal judge yesterday tentatively acquitted Lori Drew, the Missouri woman convicted for her involvement in a MySpace “cyberbullying” hoax that allegedly resulted in a young girl’s suicide.  If it sticks, the acquittal will help reverse the momentous change in online liability that Drew’s earlier guilty verdict threatened to set in motion.

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

Bring Me his Head and Hands: Unconstitutional Internet Proscription

Dear friends, let’s begin with a little story about the death of liberty at Rome. When Mark Antony had the chance, he proscribed (read: murdered) the orator Cicero.

Jurisdiction: 

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Crime Online May Mean More Time

In Hawaii, a 22-year-old former hospital worker was recently sentenced to one year in jail, five years probation and 200 hours of community service on a felony charge of "unauthorized computer access to confidential records" (apparently under Haw. Rev. Stat.

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

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