(PHOTO CREDIT: GETTY IMAGES)
FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:
An appeals court in California has overturned a man's two convictions for threatening to assassinate President Obama. The grounds? Freedom of speech.
In 2008, two weeks before Barack Obama was elected the first black president in this nation's history, a California man posted violent, racist messages about Obama on an online message board: One posting said, "Shoot the ____" using a racial slur to describe Obama. Another post said Obama would end up with a "50 cal in the head soon."
The Secret Service tracked down this individual as you might imagine - a guy named Walter Bagdasarian - within weeks. He had a .50-caliber rifle and five other guns and ammunition in his possession when they found him. He was arrested, and after waiving his right to a jury trial, Bagdasarian was convicted by a federal judge of two felonies for threatening to kill a presidential candidate.
But Wednesday, a court of appeals in - wait for it - San Francisco overturned that decision.
In a 2-to-1 ruling, the court said his actions were protected by the First Amendment and that while his words were "alarming and dangerous," they were not illegal. The court also said Bagdasarian expressed no intent to act on his words himself.
Prosecutors can now ask the appeals court for a rehearing or appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.
After Bagdasarian was initially convicted in 2009, he apologized for his actions and said he had posted the messages while drunk. Apparently in his mind that made it OK. He was sentenced to two months in a halfway house in addition to the 24 days he had already served in jail.
Here’s my question to you: Should calling for the assassination of the president be protected as free speech?
Interested to know which ones made it on air?
A.J. in Lincoln, Nebraska:
Yes, it should. Free speech is free speech. There is no gray. However saying your going to kill someone is a threat and is illegal. Saying that you wish, or would like to see, someone else kill a certain individual is perfectly okay. Now if that certain individual happens to be the president and that president gets killed, you should be charged and punished.
Joe in Binghamton, New York:
Jack, calling for the assassination of the President should be treated as treason. There is no room for free speech when the agenda is to annihilate the symbol of our nation.
Kevin in New Mexico:
No, it should not be protected as freedom of speech. It should be considered a terrorist threat to take a life. If you're not happy with who the president is, wait till the next election and vote for someone else.
James in Columbus, Ohio:
No way can it be protected speech. No way, no way. Also, I believe that burning our flag should not be protected speech. Call me old fashioned, I don't care.
Will in Bozeman, Montana:
My brother, who suffers from paranoid schizophrenia, threatened President Reagan's life on two occasions. He served two years each time in a penitentiary. The authorities deemed his threat real enough to put our family under close scrutiny for years. It made it difficult for me to get a secret clearance while in the military, (affecting my job and promotions), my mail never came unopened, and after 911, I was on a threat list and forced to fly the day after my scheduled flights.
Kirk in Apple Valley, Minnesota:
If we want to pretend that the Constitution actually means anything, then sadly the answer is yes. However, I'm fairly sure that the fanatical Right will only say that it is free speech so long as it only pertains to President Obama.
Ray in Knoxville, Tennessee:
Yes, it should, Jack. There's nothing in the Constitution that says that free speech shouldn't apply to idiots, too.
Jack: No, there is a terrorist threat act which protect federal employees, elected officials. Calling for the assassination of the president comes under this act. This type of threat is the same as yelling fire in a crowded movie house.
No. It's a serious threat to do bodily harm to someone else.
Jack that is not the best idea i have ever heard. It seems more to me like a terroristic threat that if not taken seriously might lead to a dead president. Free speech only goes so far and once it incites violence then it is no longer free speech. We need to be careful with what we tolerate as a society and threatening to kill anyone, president or not, should have consequences. Anger is power and even if that power starts out to be static at first and nothing but lip service it can become dynamic in a heart beat. You can not bring back the dead.
Of course it's protected as free speech. But anyone who says it will be immediately under scrutiny, and should have to pay the consequences of any actions that are motivated by such comments.
Yes, if the president is Treasonous . if the president wrongly chooses the agenda of his administration
I think I have a solution to that. Whomever calls for the assasination of the President should have his address published. Obviously if it is some foreign wing nut we cant do that. But we can publish their families addresses if they live in America.That is free speech too.
Well if you consider the HUNDREDS of moral decay behavior our constitution has protected over the past 200+ years, you must, unfortunately, allow other despicable acts from a free but entirely spoiled society.
Should calling for the assassination of the president be protected as free speech?
The Law of the Ten Commandments Exodus 20: 13 "Thou shalt not kill"
Exodus 21: 12 "He that smiteth a man, so that he die, shall be surely put to death"
are the only ones protected by God as "free speech".
Absolutely not. That is insightment and it is against the law.
Why is there even a question about this? Why is it when there is a Black President there is a question about whether talk of assassinating the President of the United States is an issue of free speech when this country has a long long history of vigorously prosecuting anyone who would dare use the words President and assassination in the same sentence. Will we next ask if someone speaking of a bomb on an air plane full of passengers exercising free speech?
Calling for the murder of anyone should not be considered free speech because it infringes upon that person's right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. All of our laws provide for specific freedoms as long as they do not impede the freedoms of others. When laws fail this simple test, then the system has failed!
On what planet? Can you just imagine what would have happened to anyone calling for Bush's assasination. They would have been "disappeared." Why is it now ok to do it to the black guy? That's what I want to know.
I'm such a great fan of your segment on the show and yourself of course that it feels eerie that YOU – of all people – should ask such a dumb question. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that calling for the assassination of the President or anyone else for that matter should NEVER...EVER be considered free speech! Obama is a public servant and should be respected as is and NOT be the subject or the victim of life threats! Any public servant out there get a mandate from the US population to do what is right for their country so therefore they should be protected against lunatics who THINK they know what the interest of all should be! He is committed to the task ahead and should be allowed to do his job properly until the American voters decide otherwise!
Calling for the assassination of the president is like calling for the end of democracy in America...point and simple! NEVER...EVER should you let that happen!
...As a Ugandan used to dictators that we wish deposed but not killed, I am amazed views held in the US in the guise of free speech. With such numerous outrageous views, what does that tell you about the moral decay of America especially by the far Right. America has hope in progressives. Patrick Oyulu, Edison NJ USA
No, it is the same as yelling "Fire" in a crowded room.
If the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Westboro Baptist Church (much to my disgust) wouldn't they have to do the same for someone who called for the assassination of the President (that too would be to my disgust)?
Sure, talk is cheap anyway. Now if they offer a reward for it then maybe someone should look into it. Just because Obama is a bad president doesn't mean he is more likely to be assassinated, Look at JFK; everybody liked him, most anyway and he gets shot.
Absolutely ! This 'free speech thing' has gotten out of hand. Common sense seems to have no place in our society any longer. Sad !
Jerry in GA
No. Would the decision have been the same if the defendant had been charged with threatening the life of the judge's wife?
A threat is a threat, and there is no place in any society to accept it as free speech. Next thing they will say, yelling fire in a theater is free speech.
Oh well, the Supreme court has said unlimited free money by big corporations is free speech.
What is next my fair Judges?
Free speech should be protected, but people still have to deal with the consequences of their speech (which in this case I would assume involves a visit from secret service). After all, everything we do and say can have any range of consequences, and waving the Constitution around doesn't give us the right to get out of responses we don't like.
calling for the killing of any person is not freedom of speech but it should be a serious crime.
Absolutely NOT! I'd say that amounts more toward terrorism or treason than free speech. I am so sick of negative talk/ads to the point the more I hear them, the more apt I am to NOT vote for the party the negative ad/speech is supposed to help. I deal strictly with facts.
Liberty without responsbility is suicide. The moment we as a people say that any call to assassinate the president, or anyone for that matter is somehow protected by free speech, we will have stepped off into the dangerous abyss of no return, on a journey that will lead to the collpase of the United states as we know it. We are already on a dark path to self destruction. Why hasten our collective demise sooner than need be?
Duh, Nope Jack. We have allowed free speech to be abused to a new level in many areas but this is one that needs to be dealt with swiftly. It doesn't matter what I think of the President or his policies but the Presidency is much bigger than one man.
Should someone with an intention to provide the emotional equivalent of ammunition to a gun toting assassin be a crime? Of course.
Most definitely not. The First Amendment stipulates ambiguously that our freedom of speech should not be abridged. This was not intended to be an open declaration to say anything you so desire, but instead, merely a guideline. There’s a difference between criticism and calling for the assassination of someone. If somebody threatens the president—or anyone for that matter— action should be taken, regardless. It’s simply the lesser of two evils.
No. You should be able to disagree without threatening to kill someone. 1 year jail no fine, lock them up then a long probation to keep tabs on the offender. Mental health evaluation after conviction to determine jail or hospital. Mental health issues are not the same as death threats.
Threatening the President of the United States is a class D felony under United States Code Title 18, Section 871. The offense is punishable by five years in prison, a $250,000 fine, a $100 special assessment, and 3 years of supervised release. Internet restrictions such as a prohibition on access to email have been imposed on offenders who made their threats by computer.
The statute prohibiting threats against the President was enacted by Congress in 1917.
Because the offense consists of pure speech, the courts have issued rulings attempting to balance the government's interest in protecting the President with free speech rights under the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.
However with that just said, To me just threatening anyone with bodily harm because you disagree with them just is down right childish, and if this is the example parents set for their children against other adults, than how can we stop children from bullying each other.
Good question. I have heard our Presidents call for the overthrow and assassination of Foreign Leaders, support torturing of prisoners at GITMO, and dropping bombs of Foreign Capitals, but if an American should threaten our President he may have the FBI knocking on his door.
Our Country becomes more divided every year and our policies become more biased. We pass tax cuts for the wealthy and cut entitlements for the needy.
We do not appear to have any equality at anything we do. We throw hungry people in jail for stealing a candy bar and pay bankers bonuses for bankrupting the entire Country and release child killers after 3 years in jail.
We can not direct our policies in the same direction regardless of what they are. We will condemn an Arab Country for the same thing that we will reward Israel for, because Israel is our ally, and we will give corporate bankers and wall street thieves trillions of dollars in bailout money and then cut Social Security to pay for it.
I have said for years that the U.S Government is run by the thieves and for the thieves and I will continue to say it !!
Free speech is overstated and nothing but propaganda, if you don't have enough sense to keep something like that to yourself, then you yourself should be assassinated.
Not only no Jack, but Hell no! This is not only blatent treason, it borders on terrorism. What has happened to this "wussy" country where people can openly call for assassination and walk free. I think I've lived too long and the nuts have taken over.
Are you nuts? Who made your coffee or tea today?...Michelle Bachmann?
it's p.c. correct
Jack you are getting old to ask this question how can putting someone in harms way be protected.
Too many crazies out there Jack to allow this kind of nonsense.
this type of speech is worse than yelling fire in a crowded theatre and these idiots should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
No! The very idea is ridiculous! If people can be arrested for yelling 'fire' in a crowded theater, they should be arrested for yelling 'kill.'
why not as far as i can see the only thing the left wont allow is the word GOD and they get realy upset over it for some reason
council bluffs ia
Jack, the calling for the assassination of ANY federal official should be punishable by DEATH period..... Freedom of speech does have its limitations no matter what the ACLU or the Tea Party says.
Calling for assination, riots, physical attacks is clearly outside protected free speach. I would construe such reference to h President as Treason – an attempt to ovr-throw he governmet.
Sadly, yes, Jack. Political speech was the what the Founders & Framers intended to protect under the First Amendment. But like flag burning, it should be allowed but not done.
its not free speech that protects the calling for a president assassination, its S T U P I DI T Y Jack.
tampa, fl our courts have already ruled that burning our flag is ok. just recently in AZ illegal aliens desecrated american flags with police protection including arresting veterans trying to stop the desecration. so just why should anyone be arrested for exercising his 1st amendment right for saying what so many Americans would love to see happen? oh, but don't say it on a e-mail or blog as the secret police are already arresting those people.
Hold on,absolutely not should a person be giving that kind of free speech.Remember Sarah Palin's rhetoric on targeting people and how that turn out .If you do this in any other country on this Planet you be put under the jail Jack !
Double Triple HELL NO regardless of whom the president may be it should call for the assassination of the person or persons that would incite such a thing by the way the only free speech is the speech you keep to yourself nothing is free in this day and age speak it and you will pay the price for it
Actually calling for assassination shouldn't be protected as free speech, and anyone calling for such sounds like a whining spoiled child. We, as Americans, get to enjoy a major priveledge that almost no other country can enjoy: public criticism of our elected leaders. We get to make fun of them, call them names, disagree with them and just generally think little of them...publicly. We are extremely lucky over here. It's a shame that we forget that so easily.
Calling for the assassination of the President should be treated as treason. There is no room for free speech when the agenda is to annihilate the symbol of our nation.
Joe, Binghamton, NY
Who in their right mind would even think such a thing? I emphasize “right mind”. This is up there with yelling FIRE in a crowded theater or inciting a riot. It amounts to calling for the overthrow of our government. What’s next, Congress resorting to fist fights like in third world Parliaments we see on TV? Are we that close to becoming another third world nation? I sure as hell hope not.
yes it should, free speech is free speech there is no gray. However saying your going to kill someone is a threat and is illeagal. Saying that you wish, or would like to see, someone kill a certain individual is perfectly ok. now if that certain individual happens to be the president and that president gets killed, you should be charged and punished just as harsh as the one who killed the president. A. J. Lincoln, NE
No it should not be protected by freedom of speech. It should be considered as Terroristic threatening to take a life. If you're not happy with who the president is, wait till the next voting period and vote for someone else. We have the right to vote and it speeks louder than words.
You can call it anything you want. I call it treason.
Calling for the Assasination of ANYONE should be looked into.
The Pres works for us and is no more important than anyone on this earth. They call him the Leader of the Free World. I'll bet such talk irritates Britain, France, Germany as they are sovereign nations and Germany is being lead much better than we are.
NO!!!! It should be considered as a threat and treated as such to the fullest extent of the law no matter who is President and weather that person is liked or disliked after in office.
If this is allowed under free speech, wouldn't calling for the assassinations of those people be protected as well? even if it is a government agency? The delusion of those who call for murder is they believe every agrees with them.
Yes it should, Jack. There's nothing in the constitution that says that free speech shouldn't apply to idiots, too.
How much do you want to bet that the person who would say that, would consider themselves to be a patriot? In a word Jack: no. In fact, isn't that what they call "treason"?
Absolutely NOT, Jack. I am NO supporter of this President, but if anyone openly calls for his assassination that should be considered a DEATH THREAT which is a crime. We have a Republic where the people choose it's leaders. If somone wants those leaders changed they should spend all their energy trying to get them voted out in the next election, not killed by some nut!
No. Contrary to what ignornant people believe, the concept of freedom of speech does not mean that any one can say anything any time. The framers of the Constitution wanted to protect civil discourse and there are laws that restrict the right to say certain things or encourage certain acts. Encouraging the assasination of the President is the antithesis of civil discourse and the principles on which on country was founded. Those people who think otherwise need to remember that our country is a social being for the benefit of our lives, not an anti-social being for death.
Of course it should Jack. Free Speech is NOT Free. For instance, the Supreme Court ruled that you can not yell FIRE in a crowded theater because it could cause harm, the same would apply here.
Ant threat "calling for" assassination of anyone should NOT be protected. Lots of jail time should be applied to those individuals as well.
Free speech my butt. Urging someone to kill the President is a crime and anyone who does it should be arrested and prosecuted.
No I don't think it should. Calling for someone to be killed is stepping over the line. You can call for his resignation or for impeachment but to suggest that he should be killed should be considered a very serious offence and treated as such. You have a lot of nuts out there running around that take these words seriously and will act on them. Have we learned nothing from our past? All you have to do is look at the massacre that took place in a shopping mall in Arizona, to realize how far some nut is willing to go.
No, I do not think someone should be protected under free speech when they suggest any type of harm to another individual. I don't think our forefathers could have even imagined what is now acceptable under the covering of free speech. Not too many years ago it was unheard of for a man to utter a curse word in the presence of a woman or child.
Stick and stone may break my bones but words will never harm me:I guess anyone advocating violence needs to be watched a little closer but when speech and thought become a crime freedom is truly on it's way out! What has happened to the America that had eye on trouble and a thumb on the pulse of the world!
Absolutely. And the protection should be provided to that person by means of a little room with padded walls and one tiny window.
If we want to pretend that the Constitution actually means anything, then sadly the answer is yes. However, I'm fairly sure that the fanatical right will only say that it is free speech so long as it only pertains to President Obama.
NO!!! it a TERRORIST THREAT!!! it's WAY WORSE than the classic "yelling FIRE in a crowded theater" unprotected speech.
Why on earth would you even ask this question?! Are you hoping some crazy person will follow up on the idea so you can do a month of 24/7 coverage on the assasination for ratings? Disgusting.
Yes! It's the First Amendment. Unless you make an actual physical threat, you should be allowed to threaten the President. It's what seperates us from them. He is an elected official, he is not God or a King. Although this one thinks he is....
The USA continues to prove that individual rights can be stretched so far that the concept of "what's good for America" no longer matters. Your politicians espouse only the rights of their wealthy campaign donors, and your courts have foolishly bequeathed individual rights to corporations, which are heartless and worship only at the destructive altar of "maximizing shareholder value".
Of course there should be proper limits on "free speech", and America had better start expanding those limits.
While America is at it, perhaps it should refrain from having its leaders call for the assassination of Gaddafi and anyone else it dislikes.
Reasonable restrictions on free speech should be universally applied.
This is a tough one.
Freedom of speech should be just that, freedom.
However, by accepting that we are free to say what we want we also need to be aware that there are consequences to be faced. And I think the consequences come when the freedom bleeds over to threat, or to some harm to the person spoken about or to their character.
Ask the Dixie Chcks about freedom of speech and consequences! And they did not even threaten anyone.
So, I think that if the thing that is spoken is a THREAT to another citizen, then the speech might not be eligible for protection. But, there might be degrees of freedom even when what is said could be construed as a threat.
There are presidents and lots of other people I have disliked so much I wished they would just disappear in a puff of smoke, and I expressed that wish in public. However, does that mean that if a "puff fairy" came aong and made my wish come true I was responsible? Should I have been prohibited from expressing my wish in the first place? And how far should non protection go? Just mild non protection, or despot non protection?
No, it should not be protected under free speech because the individual making the threat is not merely voicing a political statement but is calling for the murder of our nation's highest offical. Slander is not protected under free speech, so why should death threats against our president, especially when you consider that such comments could incite some looney tune out there to see it as their "patriotic duty" to carry out the threat?
Well in my personal opinion no.However if we are really going to be absolutely true to our constitution I must say yes and I would have to vote for yes.
No. Yelling fire in a theatre or starting a riot aren't legal uses of free speech either.
Jack i learned a long time ago that you seldom have to worry about a man that tells you he is going to kill you. He has already told you what he thinks he is capable of. What you should be worried about is the man saying nothing. You don't know what he thinks he is capable of.
I believe that's called conspiracy to commit murder, bin Laden's spirit lives on. Isn't that what terrorism is all about? If someone (or a group of people) don't get their way, they try to terrorize everyone to fall in line?
If I say yes, will I get arrested? What did they arrest him for, pre meditated thought. Seems I just saw a Sci-Fi movie about that.
Let's put it this way, if someone theatens to kill me and nothing can be done about it, why should the President be any different?
I value my life just as much as he does. Where do you draw the line on who's life is more important? Maybe we should have a list in order of importance. Talk about discrimination.
It doesn't matter Jack. It breaks God's law that "Thou Shall Not Kill".
Brian from Chicago
Yes. Word are not action. only a fool would tell some one he was going to kill him. If you are sure to do the act the do it and hope for a fair trail. Then it would be a crime. If Bush was the one he said he was going to kill i am sure all the liberals would agreed with the courts desion.
Everything has its limits including free speech!
"Calling for the killing of your neighbor," cannot be protected by free speech.
"Calling for the assassination of the President of the US," certainly cannot be protected by free speech!
"Calling for the breaking of serious law," should be in peril of losing the protection of free speech.
costa mesa, CA
considering that this person had the specific weapon no. it irate's me to think that people stop taking responsibility of the words they use. although you do have to give him some credit . his note taking from watching the left shows he's past slander and now possibly murder. At this point you have to blame the people who do not call these people out Judge. This was never that big of an issue before only until challenging someone to a duel was made illegal.
Free Speech! Mr. Bagdasarian should be sitting in federal prison for treason.
Threats to kill anyone is unlawful. Threats against the President is Treason as well. Nobody killed Bush. I'd say Obama is probably safe.
Insert Bush where Obama is written. End of story.
If he "expressed no intent to act on his words himself", then that .50-cal in his house was just for hunting, right? Unbelievable.
No! It's not free speech! It's the equivalent of yelling "fire!" in a crowded theatre!! Do women who hire contract killers to have their spouses murdered get away with it even when the deal doesn't go through? No.
calling for the assassination of the president should be a free ticket to jail
How does the law apply if he had threaten to kill anyone else? Thank God for the second amendment.
No it never has been in the past so why should it be all of a sudden protected under free speech grounds.
San Mateo, CA
Ok, I'm pretty independent as far as my politics go but once the country as elected a president, I generally support him regardless of party. After an election, the horse has pretty much already left the barn. I consider him MY president and he works for me. No, I do not think this should be illegal. This particular act can cause great harm to our country, economy, etc.
You often hear peopole say, "Don't pay any attention to him. He's drunk." Sorry, but alcohol relaxes inhibitions and that's when people say what they are really thinking. This creep belongs in the slammer!
Uh Jack, he wasn't the President when this went down, and there was no direct threat to the Senators life. Where was your shock and outrage about the threatening rhetoric directed towards President Bush and Dick Cheney? Why aren't the likes of Ed Schultz, Keith Olberman and Bill Maher in prison? Like it or not, that's free speech.
I really don't understand how that could be considered free speech. Speech that endangers someones life.. as such a threat can do even if the original theatener (is that a word?) doesn't 'intend' to do it themselves.
It's time that we ratchet down the rhetoric in this country. The rise of hate, which is large part is the result of 'hateful' speech, is endangering all of us.
Yes it should be protected because it should not be a crime to want to rid the country of a dirty terrorist as many of us do, and it's no different that saying you would like to see someone else get shot because he's nothing special to anyone. I personally would not feel bad if something were to happen to him because he's a parasite to this country.
No, not all forms of speech are protected by law. When you endanger people by the use of speech, the most well know, saying fire in a theater when you know there isn't one. Making terroristic threats, the list goes on. I believe this case falls into those catagories of speech that can cause harm and should be outlawed.
"Free speech" does not allow one to advocate the overthrow of the United States government, so why should speech advocating the assassination of a President...who is, in effect, the Executive Branch of the government...be protected?
If they had jailed every person who spewed hateful threats to Bush, we wouldn't have room for murderers, drug pushers, etc. I think it probably should be a crime to say such things but if everyone who does is guilty of a crime, fine, but let's not use personal preferences to decide who should be locked up.
No, it should not be protected. Period; regardless of who the president is, regardless of your like or dislike of him or her. Much like yelling "Fire" in a crowded movie house, this is way over the line.
OK Jack, I just noted this was in San Francisco....So it is just a temporary setback and a joke as is the SF court of appeals. I think SF should sucede from the union.
As long as you do not work on carrying out a plan to do it or incite others to do it, it's free speech. We have to err on the side of caution, that is protecting a right fundamental to our constitution.
Insults/threats were similarly uttured at George Bush while he was in office. Those morons got away, so should these ones. Frankly both Obama and Bush are incompetant, Obama just hides it better.
It depends on the context.
If this is made as some type of threat in the immediate vicinity of the president then probably it is some type of assault.
If I were Secret Service I would certainly look on it as more than just free speech.
But, if it is made as just some type of political ramble rousing then it is probably not a real threat. Certainly in poor taste but not a threat.
Are we really trying to protect the rights of drunks to say whatever pops into their heads? Would we also be willing to protect whatever actions they take under the same conditions?
Of course a verbal threat should not be "protected" as free speech! Unless of course, threatening and brawling are our new standards for society. If so, welcome to the resurgence of the Neanderthal world!
Threatening to kill the President (especially) or anyone else should not be considered free speech. If someone knocks on my door and tells me that they are going to kill me and I call the cops, that person can get off claiming "free speech"? How about a robbery note handed to a bank teller claiming to shoot them if they don't hand over money? "Free Speech"? Stop it.
Absolutely not. If the threat is "free speech", why not take it a step further and say that actually assassinating a President simply a form of "freedom of expression". Was Jared Lee Loughner simply a 'performance artist'?
that free speech is going to be the down fall of America!
Jack, are you kidding? NO, absolutely NOT.
Absolutely not!! This man committed a crime by advocating and attempting to incite the assassnation of President Obama. The advocacy of racism and violence is not protected speech. Advocating sedition or burning the U.S. Flag is not protected speech. These actions are crimes against the American people. I sincerely hope the United States Supreme Court reverses the Appeals Court decision and reinstate the conviction.
While threatening comments are oftentimes vile, repugnant, racist, hate-filled, and overall unacceptable forms of speech in most cultures. They are protected in the US via the Bill of Rights, now if the person had acted on his threats, communicated them directly to the president/government, attempted to actually conspire to do anything, then he would be guilty of breaking a law, but public speech (whether live or via the internet) is protected by the First Amendment. What the Secret Service should have done is used this to investigate further and determine if he was a real threat and then act appropriately. This sounds like the government stepping in too soon before something bad happens.
Saying someone is an idiot, a jerk, or worse is freedom of speech. When we transition to threats of violence against anyone, politician or not, I believe we have crossed the line into assault (verbal). The fact that he didn't take action only means he didn't take it to actual physical assault. If someone was standing in front of you pointing a loaded gun at you, and had a license to carry that gun, would that be okay? Do they actually have to pull the trigger and shoot you for it to be assault? I think not. The assault happens when the threat is made, not when the action is actually taken.
Calling for the death of someone whether it is the President or another person is not free speech. Unfortunately we have no way to know if a person really intends to act on the words, particularly if they have the means to carry out the threat. In this country I believe we have a misunderstanding of just what free speech means. It is time to have a dialog on just what free speech means and identify what the limits are.
I wonder if the court's ruling would have been the same if the threat had been made against the three judges.
I would think any physical threat (specially a mortal one) directed towards a specific person (not just a president) should not be covered by free speech act.
It has already been ruled that any speech that presents a specific or clear threat to another person is not covered under free speech. It falls under the same category as "shouting fire in a crowded theatre." So free speech is out. And i think there are previous precedents categorizing a threat against a president or an elected official as a specific crime. If someone knows about that I would love to hear it.
In short, yes it should be. It is neither libelous, defaming, or slanderous. Granted, it is ignorant, callous, and cruel but it is none the less protected. And, in this case, the person who spoke with such cruel words did so, if we are to believe him, under the influence of alcohol. Just more evidence to the creed of thinking before you speak.
The article states: "The court also said Bagdasarian expressed no intent to act on his words himself."
So owning the type of gun your said Obama should be killed with soon doesn't count? And since when was hate speech and other violent rhetoric ever covered under the First Amendment?
I think the conviction should stand. If this guy acted out his threats, we'd be wondering why he wasn't convicted and jailed before he took action.
The right to free speech allows one to disagree with the President, call the President names and to campaign against him (or her). But no one has the right to threaten anyone's life.
"Freedom of speech in the United States is protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and by many state constitutions and state and federal laws, with the exception of obscenity, defamation, incitement to riot, and fighting words, as well as harassment, privileged communications, trade secrets, classified material, copyright, patents, military conduct, commercial speech such as advertising, and time, place and manner restrictions." Now, I am pretty sure that his comment violated one, if not more, of the restrictions.
No, but my argument would be that his administration is a threat to free speech.
Mr Bagdasarian's speech did not rise to the level of an imminent threat. Nowhere did he say that he was going to mount an assassination attempt. He used the indefinite "someone" which is clearly in the 3rd person. The other statement that he made does not rise to the level of incitement, either, because to be incitement, the danger has to be imminent. The lack of imminent danger makes the appeals court correct in its ruling.
This is absurd. Freedom of speech is not threatening to kill someone. If you claim you want to "kil"l Obama in an election, fine; otherwise, the person poses a threat to the country and our democracy. This NRA crap has goen way to far. Like Tea Party people in Virgina showing up as an armed in an anti-Obama "rallly". It was no rally, it was an armed mob. All constitutional rights can be reasonable regulated for the entire good of the society at large. You can vote, but not 10 times inthe same election. You have the right to a gun, but not the right to drive a tank to work.
It has already been ruled that any speech that presents a specific or clear threat to another person is not covered under free speech. It falls under the same category as "shouting fire in a crowded theatre."
Yes, and that person should be found by the secret service and be gifted a nice front- page picture of himself, his comments, and address on every newspaper and television broadcast across the nation.
NO, i don't think this kind of threat should be covered by the first amendment. I don't know what punishment or censor is fitting this kind of language. The first amendment should have some limits without damaging our basic freedoms.
Why is there a question of "free speech" here when this whole story is about what Bagdasarian wrote ONLINE? I though that making threats against *anyone* online was grounds for legal action?
It has already been ruled that any speech that presents a specific or clear thr eat to another person is not covered under free speech. It falls under the same category as shouting fire in a crowded theatre.
We ignored the threats and rantings of the Muslim Hasan at Ft. Hood in Killeen and look where that got us........
I feel it is time to draw the line on "free speech"........If anyone, for any reason, threatens the President of the United States, they should be prosecuted to the fullest. There has to be reasonable sense to this. Enough is enough of morons saying things like this and getting away with it. There are too many unstable people out there not to take action.
threatening the life of the president is not protected free speech. it is a national security threat to destablize the nation. there are enough people, i believe, that would take advantage of an opportunity to harm president obama. every threat should be taken seriously. there is no gray area on this issue!
It has already been ruled that any speech that presents a specific or clear threat to another person is not covered under free speech. It falls under the same category as shouting fi re in a crowded theatre.
Well, he's obviously a law-abiding, sane citizen or he would not have been able to get his hands on a .50 caliber rifle and 5 other guns.
However, if the average individual cannot get a restraining order against someone who is threatening them - unless or until that threat is actually acted upon - why should the president be treated differently?
Free speech is what the name implies; Free speech. Just because we don't like what one has to say does not mean they should not have the right to say it. If we cannot express ourselves freely everything that this country stands for goes down the drain.
threats against the president of the united states should always lead to arrests....let them say whatever they want on the way to prison....
free speech....free ride to jail...all is well in the universe
I don't think it's appropriate. But I also don't think burning the flag is appropriate, either. I was more offended by this jerk's use of the "n" word.
"david" wrote: "Yes, if the president is Treasonous . if the president wrongly chooses the agenda of his administration". Mr Cafferty: By the looks of this person's post, your next question should be "what has caused so many Americans to lose all sense?".
No even if you dont repect the man you still have to repect the seat he holds
That depends. Can I threat, swear and use a racial slur on this blog?
Very soon, in our country, there will be a genuine need for the voice of dissention and revolt to be heard in order to save our nation by overthrowing our current elected leaders. This is mandated by our own Constitution if we are in danger, as is becoming the case. This man may have made shocking statements, but if we silence the voice of one, we run the risk of our government silencing the voice of all. If that happens, we will be nothing but another third-world cesspool.
No. If there is a clear or specific threat, then free speech doesn't cover it. Just like the old "can't shout fire in a crowded theater." In fact I think this argument might have been tried before.
Calling for the assassination of any elected political figure is treasonous. It is not so much an attack on the person (that is murder, conspiracy to murder or attempted murder), but a treason against the office.
Nope it's not protected under the law. Nor is any kind of threat made about anyone, nor is any kind of direction or instruction to commit any kind of crime.
This should not be protected as free speech – it's a threat and should be treated as such.
Jack: I think the law is very clear on this at TITLE 18 > PART I > CHAPTER 41 > § 871. Threats against any President of the United States cannot be taken lightly. We've had assassinations of many recent presidents and near successes on Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford. Regardless of my sentiment for the current President, I believe the courts are wrong on this one and Mr. Bagdasarian should serve his full sentence as convicted/ Threats incite actions by radical individuals, and has no place in our society,
Threats of violence against a U.S. President cannot be considered free speech.
Should it be free speech? Good question – but whatever the answer, it should be the same for someone threatening President Obama as for someone threatening President Bush. There were similar violent expressions directed at GW Bush – how did some people respond when it wasn't their man in office?
"Free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theater and causing a panic." – Justice Holmes
Freedom of speech is not a free pass to say whatever you want. Threatening the life of a sitting, or soon to be, President should not be protected under freedom of speech. Plain and simple.
Whats next, Jack? Will a San Francisco appellate court uphold the free speech right to randomly yell out, "Fire!" in crowded theaters?
In this case I think the court was right. But it should be on a case by case basis concerning the circumstances. A member of Congress calling on someone to assassinate the President is different than Harry the Milkman calling for it. Using a national radio or TV program to do it by a host is different to. Police officers, public leaders, members of Congress and the government, the President...they need to be protected. I trust the courts.
Of course not, Jack! Our country has gone nuts!!
Speech is protected, actions are not. So long as his words were not backed by attempts to carry out the threat he hasn't done anything illegal. Boorish and stupid, yes, but that isn't a crime. Once he takes the first action toward carrying out his threats (such as taking a gun to an Obama rally) he can be arrested. Then his words become proof of intent and can be used against him in court.
No ! No threats of bodily harm to anyone, be they a private citizen or public servant should be acceptable or lawful. We know there are limits to free speech and this falls under those limits.
Free speech means free speech. It means that John Adams can say the King needs to be kicked out of the colonies without risking being hung for his statement.
By extension, it means that someone can call for the overthrow of the current US government...including the execution of the leaders of said government.
Now acting on those words....very different....and there is a little bit of a slippery slope between merely saying them and actually doing them. Was this guy plotting out possible sniper locations along the limo route of Obama's next visit to California? Things like that are where free speech turns into treason.
Let's not forget about the military-caliber guns that an angry drunken man was hoarding. This isn't just about threats to the President. The NRA is supporting threats to all of us.
No! A threat to someone's life is not free speach and should be prosecuted.
He made the threat, and he had the means to carry it out, which is an assault. Freedom of speech doesn't give one the right to break the law.
unfortunately, this clown's comments appear to be his opinion as to what he would like to see happen. in itself, the court is probably correct.
No it should be taken as a threat. It should be treated in the same manor as with anyone who calls up a business or school and makes a bomb threat is treated as a terrorist, the facility is evacuated until a bomb squad can come in and declare the place safe. This is a basic safety issue. If someone makes a threat against me, I have the right to pursue charges, through the police department. Any civil servant is also a citizen and deserves the same rights, including the President.
Calling fire in a theater is not considered free speech, so why should an obviously unstable individual who thinks he has the need for five guns in a city, who spouts racial slurs and calls for killing another person, be allowed free speech. If you go online and say you have planted a bomb somewhere, is that too free speech? There is alot of hatred still in this country where people have forgotten that we the people means everyone!
Since we have all these guns and are entitled to have them, no use in not using them. Random acts of violence as self-expression!
As a former resident of San Francisco, not surprised at the decision. That particular Court of Appeals is in a planet of its own. Sometimes right, sometimes not. In this case, I'm not sure.
Carol In Ma.
According to the ruling he did not say "I" will shoot the President. Free Speech, yes. Disgusting, yes. Just visit his campaign website. There are threats all the time. They stay up for days at a time. His campaign does not limit free speech. His monitors of the site will cause most of us to not contribute. I will not make one more donation that goes to their salaries.
Yes, it should be protected. Maybe if politicians represented the people instead of their campaign pocketbooks, people wouldn't sling death threats around. Just sayin'.
Regardless of the position that one holds in this country, they should not be subjected to threats of bodily harm and death. If the threat is made, a person should contact the authorities and let them investigate if it amounts to a real danger. My first amendment right should be limited by the damage it can do (libel, slander and in some cases threats.)
I am a free speech advocate, but there are limits to what is protected, and I think the gentleman in this case wetn well beyond those limits. Inciting armed violence against another person, most especially a public person, is not, nor should it be, protected.
I hope that the Supreme Court will, in the end, overrule this newest decision and uphold the conviction.
This is a threat against a Presidential candidate, pure and simple, which is illegal. I'm very surprised that any appeals court would overule that conviction. I hope they take this to the Supreme Court, athough this right-leaning Supreme Court would likely uphold the appeals court ruling by a 5-4 vote.
Free speech ends when someone uses speech to incite violence
Calling for the assassination of the president should not be tolerated. However, from reading this article I don't see where he threatened to do it. He just pretty much said he wouln't be surprised if it happened. I have heard many people say the same types of things, because there are crazy people in this world. That obviously doesn't mean they ever thought of doing it themselves or that they condone it. It just means with the stuff that happens in this world, it really wouldn't be surprising. Obviously this guy is vulgar and probably a moron, but I don't see where he ever threatened the president. JMHO
It's a tough one. We all have our sacred cows: the American flag, the Koran, the Torah, the funeral of an American soldier, the safety of the President. Which, if any, should be off-limits to desecration and villification? When in doubt, I give the benefit of the doubt to the First Amendment and free speech, even though the speech may be abhorrent.
There is a differnce between mere advocacy and steps taken in furtherance of an illegal act.
Unfortunately, freedom of speech goes too far at times. The problem is policing what is too far. Many times public figures are simply lied about, and cannot sue for libel/slander unless damage can be proven. This is a problem that we should resolve. We need to hold mass media to some sort of standard. With regards to comments made online (drunk or sober), if a person is threatening another person, they should be taken to task. Does this mean spending many years in jail, probably not, but there does need to be some accountability for things posted online or blogs. It shouldn't be completely void of any responsibility.
NO – Freedom of speech does not include threats of death – it covers an individuals opinion on an issue!
It's automatically a felony to threaten the President of the US, so was he excused because Obama was just a Presidential candidate at the time? Maybe the CNN legal experts can answer that as I for one would like a more clear understanding. Regardless, considering he had a 50 caliber rifle and threatened to kill Obama with a 50 cal, you would think there was some sort of plausible threat he should be found guilty for.
Is it illegal for someone to threaten to kill me? If it is legal, then it's free speech. If it is illegal, then it isn't protected. Now let's move on to my plan for world peace, Jack.
I don't think threats to kill anyone should *ever* be protected speech!!
Freedom of speech implies a freedom of thought and a freedom to express one's thought. However, implying a threat to bodily harm stifles thought and thus, infringes on the rights of the threatened to speak freely.
Calling for the assassination of "anyone" should be a criminal offense, drunk or not, because even if that person doesn't do it, they could be putting ideas into the minds of someone who will, I am all for freedom of speech, but when it comes to threatening someone's life there should be some type of controls put in place. This president has endured so much more than any president in memory, because of his color. Things that normally wouldn't be tolerated or said about another president, seems to be Ok when it comes to this president. What's the difference between a terrorist threat and a so-called drunken threat if a life is involved? Both obviously can be carried out by some fanatical person(s). What's next? Protecting their actions as the consequence of "free Speech"?
No it's not free speech, it's a threat. Plan and simple.
No way, it is a shame what this country has become when we have judges that let some jerk make statements like this. We have become a nation of low morals, corruption by public officials, lying, stealing cheating and about everything else that is self serving.
Although it is free speech, when threats were spoken against any other president, the people making those threats were arrested, questioned, researched, and then (mostly) released. It should be the same with this president. If a threat is made, it should be investigated. Of course, due to the racist nature of the population in general against this president, it MUST be investigated. There are too many crazies out there.
Free Speech in the USA is for everyone not just the chosen few. If someone can burn a American flag and not have anything happen to them why bother about something that has been said. More than 3/4 of this country would like to see the big O gone and they have ever right to feel that way and say it if they chose. Every President has had bad things said about them and for some reason they did not get hot and bothered like the big O. What is that all about. Maybe those people that caused his election will think twice in the next round.
Last I checked, the freedom of speech in the United States has its exceptions. "exception of obscenity, defamation, incitement to riot, and fighting words, as well as harassment, privileged communications, trade secrets, classified material, copyright, patents, military conduct, commercial speech such as advertising, and time, place and manner restrictions." I am pretty sure that an exception, if not more than one, was violated. Therefore, I do not think it should be protected under free speech.
aubrie in Texas
In an effort to be politically "correct", we totaly ignored the threats, warning signs and rantings of Hasan at Ft. Hood in Killeen, Texas and look where that got us. At some point we have to take these things more seriously. It's part of being responsible citizens.
Never mind free speech. What SHOULD be against the law is violent enraged drunks owning an arsenal.
I do not believe calling for the assassination of a President should be protected speech. That is advocating death to someone especially the leader of the country. I am astonished San Francisco of all places, true it is a liberal city that bans happy meals, wants to ban circumcision, yet protects illegals to no end, would call the calling for assassination of the President free speech. Are there truly no repercussions for anything these days? What sickens me the absolute most regarding the abuse of the free speech clause is the fact that just because you have the right to say something does not mean you should say it.
No, this should not be considered protected speech. Support for the President or his policies is irrelevant to this issue. If the man were serious, and even worse, managed to carry out the threat, these same postings would have been cited as evidence that should have been taken seriously.
Saying someone ought to shoot him should be protected. Saying you are going to shoot him or soliciting others to do so should be a crime. The first statement he made should be protected. The 2nd one sounds like a specific threat and should be treated differently.
You can't have it both ways.
If we can publicly call for the deaths of other world leaders and have no fear of going to jail, why not the president?
If we can publicly call for the deaths of private citizens (Casey Anthony, OJ Simpson etc) and have no fear on going to jail, why not the president?
Jack, California, you say? My, my. Well, it's nice to know there's a thoughtful, considerate, group of judges out there looking out for the best interests of our country as a whole, and in our President in particular, than the safety and well-being of a armed-to-the-teeth loon. Layne A. Antioch, Il.
Calling for the assassination of the president should be a matter of treason and the culprit should be arrested. This is NOT free speech – just HATE speech.
Jack, In this day and age, nothing is off the table in terms of violence. I think we all learned from 9/11 (and terrorist threats since then) that all threatening matters not just to political leaders but to everyone in this country should be treated with the highest of regard. Ignoring them or chalking them to one's assumption is a setback to the improvements we made with homeland security over the last 10 years.
I am a die hard Republican and fully support the Tea Party movement. In my opinion, Barack Obama is the worst President we have had in my lifetime. That said, anyone advocating his assassination should be thrown in prison. The Appeals court decision is ridiculous.
Disgusting as it is, its still free speech. However if there is any substance to that threat its the slammer. I would certainly never call for a politicians head but I could sure wish lock jaw on a bunch.
Ash Fork, Az.
Calling for the assassination of anyone is a hate crime. This trumps "free speech."
Jack, how one answers this question could, itself, be grounds for prosecution so I'm going to be very careful. The 9th circuit court is a notoriously liberal group to say the least so their finding in this matter is not particularly surprising. However, with the pulse of America today being what it is, making such comments is hardly a good idea. My guess is the Secret Service has been on particularly high alert for
Gary in Scottsdale, Arizona
Absolutely not. People should have the right to say what they will, but when they explicitly threaten the President of the United States, they threaten the institution of the Presidency and therefore the country itself. Any court decision to the contrary is reckless and decadent.
George Washington would be proud to hear such news.
From: Jefferson City, Missouri
No. if there is a presence of the ability to act upon the public statement, it becomes an act of attempted assault using deadly force. If there is no presence of intent, the act is a simple assult.
Whether or not it is legal, it is certainly defensible grounds for looking into this person's history, motivations and temperament and making an informed decision thereafter. This gentleman – though i hesitate to use the word – felt the brunt of the federal government, was punished and publicly withdrew his vitriol. Had he stood by his inciteful words and used his time in public scrutiny to attempt to legitimize them, this would be a different story. Unfortunately, as in the Jared Loughner case, sociopaths rarely give you advance warning – this guy wasn't a sociopath, just an angry drunk. We demonstrate the justice of our society by dealing with each person as they deserve, and an angry drunk certainly deserves a different fate than a sociopath.
No...We have become a rude, arrogant and shameful people and we have, by are selves, brought are country down to an undignified level. Our own elected leaders brawl like school children, our courts and law makers are trying to please the ridiculous.
Butch from Richmond, Va.
Is it now not treason and felonious plot to assainate the President of the United States of America? Is it free speech to call for the killing of any of us? My question to you: Would calling for the assassination of any previous president have been protected as free speech?
Absolutley Not Jack That Is Just Ridculous! I Believe If Anyone Even Makes A Threat By Text Message, Email, Online Social Media, Or Any Any Way That There Going To Assassinate The President Of The United States They Should Locked Up In Prison For A Long, Long Time Because It's Not Of Freedom Of Speech To Say Something Like That But Its Terroistic Because Your Trying And Threatning To Bring Down A Government Offical.
Scott Stodden (Freeport,Illinois)
If you can't yell "bomb" on a plane or "fire" in a building for the risk of igniting panic or being arrested, then promoting for the assassination of anyone, including a president, should be illegal. There are very crazy people out there who would follow through on those words. Free speech to entice murder is not free speech, it is a threat and a serious one at that.
I am free to speak. I have always felt that way, and therefore, have always acted that way, but if I am overheard saying I am going to kill anyone, much less a Presidential candidate, or, the President himself, I would like to think there would be repercussions.
If I am not mistaken, in most states, it is a crime (terroristic threat) to tell someone that you are going to kill them.
It doesn't matter if you are drunk, or if you subject IS the President, you should not have the right to walk around spouting murderous threats.
Yes...there are many who feel the same way....Its free speech and I dont care who he is
There is a fine line here. If I say "I am going to shoot (someone)" it is a direct first person threat and should not be protected by free speech. But if I say "shoot (someone)" it is a hope or wish of something I would like too see, but not a first person threat. If I am hopeing something will happen, it is not a first person threat and should be protected under freedom of speech. We all do a little of this in politics and neighborhoods.
But yes, I agree actual first person threats directly to a named (someone) is not protected by freedon of speech.
Absolutely not. It's like saying that verbal spousal abuse is protected under the right to free speech. That's asinine. A threat is a threat.
NO NO NO. Physical threats should not be protected under free speach. In fact I believer there is a terror threat law already inplace which protects the nations public officials from such threats.
If a known Islamic Extremist can stand on a corner in Time Square and call for the United States to be wiped off the map and is protected by freedom of speech then yes, a person is protected from prosecution for calling for a President to be wiped off the same map. Is the person scum and should be observed/investigated, certainly.
Jack, the advocacy of violence and racism is no more protected speech than the act of throwing a molatov cocktail through someone's house window or yelling fire in a crowded place. The U.S. Appeals Court erred in its ruling and the U.S. Supreme Court should correct this matter by reversing the ruling and reinstating the conviction. It is a crime to threaten or to advocate violence against government officials just as it is a crime to advocate sedition against the U.S. government.
I remember a girl that went to UNC had a poster of Pres G.W Bush, doing things with corpses. The serect service ended up picking her up & interrogated her for hours.. Should President Obama get the same secrurity.
Regardless of who the President of the United States is or what political party their affiliation, any threat of harm verbally is not freedom of speech. You can choose to disagree and speak you mind on ideas and actions. Saying otherwise is like saying the person that shot at Reagan was executing their right to bare arms.
It is 1943, and someone calls for the assassination of President Roosevelt. He/she writes an editiorial to the local paper saying, "Roosevelt would end up with a "50 cal in the head soon." Should that have been considered legal? "No," you might say, "The country was at war and we were dealing with crises of national survival." If you think that, then why would you think any differently about today?
Lots of people have done lots of dumb things while intoxicated. Some of those acts can properly be classified as crimes, like drunk driving or getting into a fight. But for some of those things, like drunk dialing an ex-girlfriend or falling down a flight of stairs, the embarassment suffered by the individual doing the act should be punishment enough. To prove criminal threatening there needs to be some underlying intent to follow through on the acts or some sort of intimidation of the target. I seriously doubt Barack Obama lost any sleep over some loser posting mean-spirited things on the internet. Th guy might be a racist and an idiot, but a credible threat to the leader of the free world he is not. This is a case where prosecutors needed to use discretion, something they are sometimes sadly lacking.
Free speech is a cornerstone of our personal liberties. However, free speech becomes dangerous when it is threatening or it incites others to illegal action. This is clearly the case in this situation. It is absurd for the appeals court to rule that this dangerous man's threats are protected by free speech. I wonder how the judges would react if another crazed person made the same threats to them – especially if it occurred within their courtroom. I fear for our country if these types of court rulings continue.
No. The office must be respected, even if the man (for political reasons) is not.
This wasn't an issue under the administration of George W. Bush, so the Secret Service had a much easier time. Our last president had a perfect life insurance policy in the form of Dick Cheney.
It did not matter to Obama about Bin Laden....
It is illegal to threaten to kill someone in any state I have been in. I suspect there are some who seem to think it is ok to threaten the life of this president because he is black and he was elected to the office. Like him or not, agree with him or not, calling for his asassination is a terroistic threat such Al Queda would do and speaks volumes about the person who does so.
its free speech like it or not
Of course it isn't free speech. Free speech is limited to pornography. You aren't allowed to say anything about blacks, gays, women, muslims...etc. Free speech was just included in the constitution to protect pornography...and verbal attacks on christians.
I don't think so. what I think is build more jails and jail more people. That creates jobs , jobs create wealth , maybe we can jail enough people to get out of the depression were in.
I'm going to guess that those who say it's free speech are more right leaning and those who say no it is a threat that needs to be dealt with are probably more left leaning (because the threat was against Obama). If the person whom the threat was made against was say...Bush...would you have the same opinion?
This is an instance where the answer can not be right or wrong based on which side of the political fence you are on...it's either free speech or it's not and it does not matter who or who is not the President or a presidential candidate.
No matter who the President is or which side he is on, there will always be someone who thinks that he is the worst possible thing to ever happen to the country. If it's free speech when one person is President, then it's free speech no matter who is President.
In this Alice in Wonderland environment I wouldn't be surprised if an actual assassination wasn't defended as "Free Speech."
It hasn't in the past. Why is now any different? Because we have an African American president? How sick have we become? Eve of Texas
Doesn't sound like there was any "personal intent towards action" in the quotes you mentioned so yes, it would be protected and is not criminal.
Jack, I don't believe these words, especially put in writing, should be protected under the rule of free speech. People need to understand that words carry weight, no matter how "jokingly" spoken, or how "drunk" the person is, and there are consequences for both our actions AND our words.
I think we could all agree that had Jared Loughner been more closely scrutinized, six people would most likely still be alive, and Congresswoman Gibbons would not still be recovering from her wounds.
I think the distinction is whether or not it forms a credible threat.
That is, if the guy is mouthing off with no intent to cause the President (or anyone else for that matter) bodily harm, then yes, it is protected speech.
If he says it with the intent that it causes someone else to commit this crime, it is the first leg of a conspiracy charge but if it isn't he himself doing the actual harming, then you can't say that the act was the primary crime. If he has no reasonable expectation that someone will follow his edict, then they are just words.
As much as I hate to add intent to yet another part of the law, I think the idea here that someone wishing aloud could be considered a crime is bordering on 1984ish thought police.
I certainly agree that drunkeness is no excuse. Since we all know that getting drunk tends to loosen our inhibitions, I would have said that him getting drunk knowing that he might say things he didn't mean becomes the criminal act ... if this sort of speaking was considered criminal which (apparently) it is not.
If I know that I lose control when I get drunk but I get drunk anyway, then the act of getting drunk is wreckless in the legal sense.
And if the thought police really were in power, I'd have been in jail many times over with respect to the President's predecessor.
The question for free speech is always context. In the case of a threat against a public figure, the question is: 1. was it a credible threat 2. that cause a danger of imminent harm. If you are on a corner with an angry mob and you call for the assassinate of a person right around the corner than that's incitement (not insightment Michael). If you are at a rock concert and hold your guitar up and say "obama should get one in the head," it's artistic speech meant to make a political statement. Ted Nugent did something very close to this and no one was calling for him to be prosecuted for it. So, do you think that a stupid drunk putting up stupid posts poses a real and imminent threat to the President? If not, leave it alone. We should always always always err on the side of permitting speech and not criminalizing it.
The only way that the convictions should be overturned, is if the law(s) he was convicted of breaking is declared unconstitutional.
Sure, but I would hope that the idiot making this doltish statement would be "in the cross hairs," within minutes.
The prosecutors should appeal. It is illegal to threaten the life of federal officials, period. Calling for the assassination of a president – any president – simply cannot be tolerated. Some things are simply beyond the pale if we are to have a civil society.
Much I agree, with the reason that his mouth is not a gun so a man connot go to jail beacuse he said something wild. But this man was found with a weapon that can be used to kill. That is the problem. Anyway people have the right to carry arm. Now I hope no one is being held in jail because they said they have bomb to blow an airplane and it turned out they had no bomb on arrest.
Nov. 22,1963 several people openly threated the President if he dare travel to Dallas and no charges. Well President Kennedy was assassinated and we even learned their was no law for assassinating a President even when the two attempts were made on FDR's life. Well Reagan had someone attempt his life and we see he is still under court control. A few Americans dare attack Bush and Cheney with what some believed threats and that didn't end well for the people. Evening marching in protest got citizens arrested as they spoke out peacefully against Bush. But let'see threats to Obama is a person's first amendment right and if a nut followers those directives will that be an oops or let's move on. Supreme Court Justice Stevens said Judges were political and doing as they are ordered and not following the law. Well this is an example of that fact. The Laws say it's a crime to threaten a US President but these Federal Judges say it's not a crime if the threats are against the current President but it will be a crime again after he's out of office.
No! Threatening to assassinate the President of the United States is not a form of free speech. Its disgusting and wrong and he should be prosecuted and sentenced accordingly. No one should threaten the President's life, regardless of who is in office. While we can disagree with his/her policies or even the person in that position,; it does not provide an excuse for such behavior!
Where were all of you liberals when the same threats were made against W? Oh, that's right, protecting free speech...hilarious.
Of course someone would argue the free speech issue and to many they have a valid point. Saying "Shoot " verses "I am going to shoot" have two entirely different meanings.
Any threat to the President implied or direct should always be investigated. However, the context of the threat should always be taken into account.. Zero tolerance has never worked in any society past or present. In general I would think it is those that don't talk about themselves planning a crime are the ones most likely to commit one.
It reminds me of the pro-life groups who constantly call for the justifiable murder of abortion providers and Sarah Palin's ads showing gun-sights on pictures of opponents using free speech as their cover. We all saw the results of these two implied solutions.
Any call for murder, either nuanced or direct, should be punishable by law. When it comes to a call for violence, the Second Amendment is rendered moot. This is a free but more importantly, a peaceful society.
Are there any phrases in the constitution that say use your common sense, there should be. My common sense tells me that the promotion of the assasination of the President Of The United States is not protected by the constitution, and it should be treated as an act of treason!
I am going to shoot your eye's out with a lightning bolt....should I go to prison now. F R E E speech, whether you like it or not sissy camp.
you can say alot of things about public officials, but I would hope you cannot publicly cal for someone's murder. Hello??!! you want to state such in your living room with friends or family, have at it, but publicly? Here's your cell my friend, especially the President.
Calling for, and possibly fueling a potential assassination attack upon the President of the United States, is NOT within the boundries of "Freedom of Speech." The court "jesters" need their heads examined. If someone threatened a judge and called for their assassination, I bet the court would change their tune.
Vineland, New Jersey
He may have been a threat, which gives the meticulous investigation credit, but he never violated his freedom of speech.
The President and other politicans in Washington lie all the time. Is that free speach? Ken Krieger Cape Coral, Florida
I'm afraid this is only the beginning of what is to come in the 2012 elections. The hate of some people in our country is very sad, hopefully we will grow as a people someday. Until then I will do all I can to STOP the hate.
if this is free speech, then it is also free speech for me to yell "I've got a bomb" on a plane.
TRICK QUESTION!! You didn't say president of what, a corporation, college, PTA, or of the USA...but whatever, if everyone that ever uttered the kill words in a heated moment was jailed, it just may cure the unemployment problem. Say whatever you want, just don't follow through.
What Mr. Bagdasarian did was incite to riot. You cannot issue a threatening statement, then claim First Amendment protections. The Founding Fathers never intended that.
Dissent is one thing. Calling for murder is quite another.
"The court also said Bagdasarian expressed no intent to act on his words himself."
To me, this statement is central to the ruling. If the context of the threat would make a reasonable person interpret him to be serious, then he should be arrested, charged, and convicted. If the context of the threat would make a reasonable person interpret him not to be serious, then the Secret Service should simply watch over him cautiously, but he should not be charged unless there is more activity or words coming from him to indicate intent.
This is a threat and should not be protected. It is also against common decency and respect. It is also sad and ugly. It is also something that can affect OTHERS' thoughts about killing somebody (namely the president.) This guy or anybody have an INFINITE amount of terrible things they can say about the President or anybody. This is a VERY fair line to draw and allows those disgruntled people to still spew hatred and disgust if they so choose. THREATS ARE ILLEGAL AND SHOULD REMAIN SO IN THE U S of A.
In a word: NO
No it's not covered under free speech. I'm always amazed when people think that it is. ALL of the so called freedoms come with limits. The best way to explain it is " YOUR FREEDOMS END WHERE MINE BEGIN".
You're free to drive but not steal my car to do it.
You're free to eat but not break into my house and take your food.
Isn't anyone's right to live and the "pursuit of happiness" stronger than someone call for his or her murder. And make no mistake about it the calling for a bullet in his head is murder.
When are we as a society going to grow up and start treating each other the way we want to be treated.......seems like we were all told that as children.
No. This is a no brainer.
Anyone that calls for an assassination of the President (regardless of whom it is), should be jailed.
We have a House member that is fighting her way back from violence that left people dead. And now we're discussing this?
This country has surely deteriorated if some of us think this sort of thing is free speech.
i can't believe we're having this conversation. no matter what you think of the past, current, or future presidents...you don't post a threat against them. posting is forever. tell your wife, your best nazi friend, whoever. you think it first, then you say it out loud, then , sometimes, it becomes real. nail the guy to the wall...he's guilty.
It's just amazing what comes out of California. They must be so proud.
Jeff Peoria IL
Is there really no common sense at all, any more? Do we really have to ask such a question?
That would be treason, incitement to violence, and attempted suicide. They all are against the law.
The president is the only strong voice for common sense. If we lose him, we're all lost.
Threats shouldn't be protected. Period.
No Jack, free speech should not be extended to acts of violence. Freedom of speech is about the freedom to state an OPINION without prosecution, it should not be extended to THREATS of violence.
The Supreme Court of Canada has already ruled on this issue in a precedence setting case of R_v._Zundel in 1992 by saying "Section 2(b) (of the Canadian constitution) protects all expression of a non-violent form, and as such, the content itself is irrelevant (section 2(b) is content neutral). The protection provided by the Charter includes expression of minority beliefs even where the majority may find it false."
I should imagine that American superior courts already have similar precedence setting cases that define what is & is not included in your freedom of speech rights. It is really important to understand that the right is to be able to speak an OPINION (freedom of speech), it is not a right to issue a THREAT involving violence.
London, Ontario, Canada
Calling for the assassination of *anyone* should not be considered anything except what it is, a terrorist threat.
The President of The United States of America. No, free speech does not extend to overt threats against him or his family.
Brandenburg vs. Ohio...advocacy of illegal action is illegal if it poses as an imminent lawless action and is likely to cause such action. Do his actions pose such a concern? I think this is the real test. That has been the standard since 1969.
Absolutely not. Someone getting mad at me and saying "i could kill you" is one thing. Likely hyperbole. I will classify that as free speech. But threatening to kill the President of the United States (or any member of Congress, the Cabinet, the courts in my view should not be a matter for free speech. Any threat against the President should be considered a crime. Period.
No...there is a federal law that protects federal employees, elected officials from terrorist threats. I would argue that calling for the assassination of the president falls under that law.
By all means, disagree with the president, debate his ideas, policies, etc. But you cross a line when you threaten to assassinate him.
No. A call for assassination of the President presupposes that someone will obey the call and commit the terrible act. It is an act of rebellion and, thus, smacks of treason.
Have we lost our minds in this country? I feel like I have awakened in a Twilight Zone episode! It's o.k. to threaten to kill the President? It's o.k. to cause a default and devaluation of America's credit? It's o.k. to run for President with no clue as to world affairs or any factual basis for your opinions? It's o.k. to sacrifice a rational political process to beat the current President at all costs? How much more are you willing to take America? When is enough enough?
The Supreme Court has already stated that incitement is not protected. Question: if the same thing was said about George Bush, would these people saying that it is an expression of free speech have the same position?
I cannot believe these fools in San Francisco. What amazes me is that this foreign-sounding person, that made the threat, had the weapons to assassinate the president. Wonder why it si now called free speech since Barack Obama is president and had the threat been made, as has happened in the past, to a white president, there would be no such ruling. It would not come under "free speech" and the person doing the threatening would have served a much longer term in jail. Republicans at work, AGAIN.
Something to think about, Jack My knee jerk reaction was a unequivocal NO but then I started thinking about the other freedoms we enjoy and how those might be trampled over if we don't get to exercise them regularly. Like eating foie gras in Chicago restaurants or using hydrogenated frying oil in New York or homosexuals getting married in Iowa. Oh wait those rights are still off limits perhaps the foie gras might have been repealed. either way if you own a .50 cal and say the POTUS is going to 'get a .50 cal in his head soon' then you should at least get a whipping!
No way can it be protected speech. No way, no way. Also, I believe that burning our flag should not be protected speech. Call me old fashioned, I don't care.
The president is not impeding free speech when it calls for the protection of the people because as we so seen with the attempt on Congressman Gifford that anymore it's not just the President or other officials that can get hurt but also innocent bystanders so yes he has the right to do so.
Your question is invalid Jack. The time of the "threats" were before he was elected president. Would calling for the assassination of a human being be proected as free speech?
You shout "I'm going to kill you (some person)." in front of a large audience, you will be charged with criminal intent among other charges. Post online about it in a Blog – well that's a different story. Free speech goes as far as public opinion will allow.
Free until we lock you up and throw away the key. That kind of rhetoric just gets the screwballs like Loughner riled up.
Free speech is just that,free speech. The second you go putting limitations on what can be said,it ceases to be free speech. People should be careful in their judgements on these matters of OUR constitution or it could lead to the loss of the document that makes freedom possible.
Jack, This is not freedom of speech, it is a threat to the highest office in our country, regardless of how good or poor the performance of the individual, it is still our head of state and that office must be protected from these kinds of threats.
The protection of the president should be coverd by all threats, foreign and domestic. This is not a credible threat, this is the right to free speach. Grow some brain cells
No, it should not be protected, just as a verbal assault against you or I is considered a legal assault, so should threats against the president be, and justifiably more so as he is the representative of the entire nation and all its people.
Jack Cafferty sounds off hourly on the Situation Room on the stories crossing his radar. Now, you can check in with Jack online to see what he's thinking and weigh in with your own comments online and on TV.
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