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Supreme Court Tosses Out Man's Conviction For Making Threats On Facebook

The Supreme Court has reversed the conviction of a Pennsylvania man who said violent messages he posted on Facebook were therapeutic, not true threats. Anthony Elonis was arrested by the FBI, which had been monitoring his posts.

At issue is the standard by which a lower court viewed rap lyrics and messages from Elonis, who often posted graphically violent language along with disclaimers that he was merely asserting his First Amendment rights.

As we reported last year, Elonis began posting violent messages after his wife of seven years left him in 2010. The messages he posted to Facebook prompted Elonis' now ex-wife to get a state protection order against him, and led his bosses to fire him from his job at an amusement park.


Elonis was also charged with threatening a kindergarten class and law enforcement officers — including a female agent who visited his house to question him.

In court, the jury was told to consider whether a reasonable person could view the messages as a threat. But Elonis sought a higher standard: whether he had meant to issue a "true threat."

With today's ruling, the justices returned the case to the lower court for further proceedings.

Here's one example of Elonis' Facebook postings, cited by the Supreme Court Monday:

"Fold up your [protection-from-abuse order] and put it in your pocket Is it thick enough to stop a bullet? Try to enforce an Order that was improperly granted in the first place Me thinks the Judge needs an education on true threat jurisprudence And prison time'll add zeros to my settlement . . . And if worse comes to worse I've got enough explosives to take care of the State Police and the Sheriff 's Department."


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