Friday, 15 January 2016

Slingshot Owner Convicted of Threats to Kill Obama

Brian Dutcher wrote on Facebook it was his ‘constitutional duty’ to assassinate the president.: Brian Dutcher, 55, wrote on Facebook it was his ‘constitutional duty’ to assassinate the president.

A Wisconsin man was convicted Tuesday of threatening to murder President Barack Obama, but whether he was serious remains uncertain, with a slingshot the only projectile launcher found in the homeless man’s van.
Brian Dutcher, both sides agree, said he planned to kill Obama last year in a Facebook post and again in a public library. But whether he intended the statements as political hyperbole or as true threats is in dispute.
A jury found in favor of prosecutors, delivering two guilty verdicts that carry a statutory maximum of 10 years in prison for threatening the president, though sentencing guidelines likely will call for less time.
Dutcher’s attorney Stephen Meyer unsuccessfully attempted to explain away the statements. The first, the Facebook post, said, “that’s it! Thursday I will be in La Crosse. Hopefully I will get a clear shot at the pretend president. Killing him is our CONSTITUTIONAL DUTY!”
Obama was scheduled to visit La Crosse, Wisconsin, on July 2, and Dutcher arrived in town a day earlier, allegedly telling a public library guard, “The usurper is here, and if I get a chance, I’ll take him out and I’ll take the shot.”
Dutcher, who temporarily parked his van at various locations, initially claimed he was serious, according to the criminal complaint against him, telling a La Crosse police detective on July 1 he “would not have said what he said if he didn’t intend to carry it out.”
But Meyer said at trial the Facebook post and subsequent utterance were examples of “careless talk” and “obvious political exaggeration” and that only the slingshot was found in Dutcher’s vehicle, the La Crosse Tribune reports.
“Are we dealing with Bart Simpson or are we dealing with a federal case?” Meyer joked.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Julie Pfluger, the Tribune reports, said the government did not have to prove Dutcher actually intended to kill Obama to win threat convictions. She reportedly added that Dutcher said he hunted with the slingshot and could have hurt people using it.
Meyer tells U.S. News he’s disappointed by the verdict and that Dutcher didn’t own or have access to a gun or take steps to procure one. Inside Dutcher’s van, he says, there was a bullet partially emptied of gunpowder, arrows but no bow, two axes for firewood and some marbles and ball bearings for the slingshot.
“The slingshot aspect of the case intrigued me,” he says. “That was the government’s theory -- if he was going to carry this out it would be with the slingshot. … Do I think this was a serious threat? No, obviously not.”
What exactly is required to win a threat conviction is legally murky. Last year, the Supreme Court dealt with threats posted to Facebook and ruled in favor of amateur rapper Anthony Elonis, who had been convicted of threatening various people with violent posts he called lyrics.
Justices found that the threat statute Elonis was convicted under had to feature a subjective analysis of intent, and that negligence – meaning a defendant should have known their messages would be seen as threats – was not sufficient for conviction.
The Supreme Court side-stepped whether recklessness – meaning a defendant knows statements may be seen as threats and makes them anyhow – was sufficient for a threat conviction.
“It’s unsettled nationally whether recklessness or knowledge that the statement would be considered a threat” allows for conviction, says Elonis’ attorney John Elwood.
Elwood says he doesn’t believe his recent victory at the Supreme Court would help Dutcher, even had justices determined recklessness insufficient, as Dutcher was charged under a different law than the general threat statute in Elonis' case.
“The presidential threats statute has been interpreted very strictly against people who make such statements,” he says.
Meyer, however, says he believes alleged threats against public figures should require more than recklessness. But he’s not sure yet if he’s going to appeal the guilty verdict seeking new court precedent on that, or on another issue he’s long sought a vehicle to address: judges not defining for jurors “reasonable doubt” in the 7th Circuit, which includes Wisconsin.
The reason for his iffyness on an appeal is his anticipation that Dutcher will face a sentencing range of 6 months to 16 months, potentially allowing a judgment of time served at the March 15 sentencing hearing.
Dutcher suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, he says, and has faced some difficulty behind bars.
“You can imagine, everyone knows who he is in jail, and some people don’t take kindly to what he was accused of,” Meyer says. “Some inmates are pissed off that someone would do that to the president.”
Copyright 2015 U.S. News & World Report
Share this article


Post a Comment

Copyright © 2016 AKACOMS • All Rights Reserved.
Manage by AKACOMS Web Desginers | Template Design by BTDesigner • Powered by Blogger
back to top