Did you know that, in Illinois, the crime of threatening a public official receives a lesser punishment than the threatening of a private individual?
Upset about his pending sex offender registration, Maurice Pennington filed a suit challenging the state's rules. In that filing, he made violent threats against Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan.
What is threatening a public official? And why does it receive a lesser sentence?
Though laws may vary, in Illinois, threatening a public official is either:
Threats must be connected to the official's public duties or position.
Though the punishment gap may be the result of a legislative oversight, there may be some justification for more severely punishing threats against private persons.
Historically, persons in official positions have been subject to criticism and threats. There have been assassinations and violent protests for centuries.
Knowing this, persons who enter public service arguably accept the risk of injury. Threats may simply be considered part of their jobs.
In general, an average citizen does not assume the same risk. Though a private individual may be unpopular, his or her actions aren't public in nature. Thus, they are thought to be less likely to attract threats.
Whether this theory is the basis for Illinois' sentencing disparity is unknown. Regardless, it's probably not a good idea to threaten a public official or private individual.