Ruling Calls Obama Death Threat Free Speech
A Federal appeals court ruled Tuesday that a California man who called for people to “shoot” President Barack Obama on an internet site committed no crime and is covered by, freedom of speech.
Two years ago, Walter Bagdasarian was found guilty of making threats against a major presidential candidate for comments he posted on a Yahoo.com financial website in October 2008 shortly after Obama had captured the presidential election.
Bagdasarian wrote Obama, “will have a 50 cal in the head soon” and a called to “shoot the [racist slur].”
A judge ruled Tuesday that Bagdasarian’s comments weren’t violations of the law under which Bagdasarian was convicted because the statute doesn’t criminalize “predictions or exhortations to others to injure or kill the president,” said the majority opinion written by Judge Stephen Reinhardt.
“When our law punishes words, we must examine the surrounding circumstances to discern the significance of those words’ utterance, but must not distort or embellish their plain meaning so that the law may reach them,” said the 2-1 ruling.