For Obama Twitter Threats, Man Gets Year in Jail

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By Betty Wang, JD on June 24, 2013 9:26 AM

A 26-year-old Alabama man has been sentenced to a year in prison for Twitter threats against President Barack Obama.

Jarvis M. Britton sent out a tweet September 14 that said, "Let's kill the president. F.E.A.R." -- an acronym that stood for "F--- Everyone And Run," according to AL.com.

A Secret Service agent's affidavit also reports several other tweets made in June, one of which stated, "Free speech? Really? Let's test this! Let's kill the president" and, subsequently, "I'm going to finish this, if they get me, they get me! #ohwell. I think we could get the president with cyanide. #MakeItSlow" and "Barack Obama, I wish you were DEAD!"

Despite Britton's Twitter claims about free speech, even that constitutional right has its limits. Threats, for one, are not usually protected under the First Amendment.

Also, federal law makes it a felony offense to knowingly and willfully convey communication that contains "any threat to take the life of, to kidnap, or to inflict bodily harm upon the President of the United States" and any successors to the presidency. Typically, committing such an act can lead to fines and/or up to five years in prison.

Generally speaking, whether something is deemed a threat is entirely subjective, and would require the threatened subject to reasonably fear actual harm.

However, when it comes to making threats to the President, this isn't required. Making the threat itself -- by tweeting it or writing it elsewhere -- is enough to make it illegal.

Jarvis M. Britton pleaded guilty in March, and acknowledged that his Obama Twitter threat was wrong. He also apologized to the court.

Britton was also ordered to serve three years of probation. He currently has three more months of prison left to serve, because he has been in jail since September and will be given credit for that time.

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