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Man Arrested over Facebook Threat to Governor

By Cynthia Hsu, Esq. on May 12, 2011 9:55 AM

Note to self: do not post violent threats on Facebook. Michael Adams, 36, wrote a Facebook comment reading "I hope that Governor [Dannel] Malloy will be shot by an angry New Yorker during his visit to New York."

Can you guess what happened next?

Why Mr. Adams was arrested, of course. He was picked up by Connecticut police on charges of harassment, inciting injury, and breach of peace. Police said that they were taking all threats seriously considering the timing of the visit.

Adams admitted that he wrote the comment. However, he claimed that he did not actually want any harm to come to Gov. Malloy, reports The Hartford Courant. According to neighbors, Adams had previously served in the U.S. military, and had recently gone through a divorce, reports NBC Connecticut.

Adams was released on a $30,000 bond.

So, are violent Facebook posts considered constitutionally protected free speech? It all depends.

Not all speech is protected. Yelling "fire" in a crowded movie theater is not going to do you any favors. Similarly, "fighting words" - words that are likely to incite violence or breach the peace - are not constitutionally protected.

Adams did not explicitly say that he wanted someone to shoot Gov. Malloy during his trip to New York. However, to most, Adams' words seem to insinuate that there might be some threat to Gov. Malloy's life or safety.

As a result, it's likely that Adams' Facebook post could easily be conveyed as a threat. While harassment laws vary from state to state, a credible threat to someone's safety can invoke a criminal harassment statute. The issue in trial will likely be whether or not a comment on Facebook is a credible threat.

Luckily, Gov. Dannel Malloy's New York trip went off without a hitch. He was attending a ceremony at Ground Zero, reports NBC Connecticut.

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