Is Drunkenness An Excuse for Making Violent, Racist Threats Against the President?

Interesting story from Dave Maass of the San Diego CityBeat about the consequences of drunk, racist, violent Internet trolling.

Blood was boiling in late October 2008 as Election Day neared. The corpse of a bear cub, draped with Obama campaign posters, was left at a university in North Carolina. A mannequin dressed like vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin was hung by a noose in a Halloween display in Los Angeles. And from his home computer in La Mesa, Bagdasarian was causing trouble on a Yahoo! Finance message board in the middle of the night.

“fk the niggar, he will have a 50 cal in the head soon,” Bagdasarian typed after midnight on Oct. 22 in a thread titled “Obama” on the website’s section for the recently bailed-out insurance mega-corporation AIG.

Twenty minutes later, Bagdasarian added: “shoot the nig…the country fkd for another 4 years+, what nig has done ANYTHING right???? Long term??? Never in history except sambos.”

Bagdasarian went online the next day to explain he was drunk when he made those statements. But when the Secret Service tracked him down 30 days later, they found a 50 caliber weapon in his home. Bagdasarian was later convicted of two counts of threatening a major presidential candidate.

He’s appealing the decision.

The issue is largely one of semantics: Did Bagdasarian’s remarks constitute a “true threat” to Obama? In his brief, Cortez argues that his client’s posts were “racist remarks that included violent language” but were ambiguous enough to be protected by the First Amendment. The U.S. Attorney counters that Bagdasarian’s comments are reasonably interpreted as threats considering he owned a 50-caliber weapon and later sent e-mails about using such a weapon on a car.

Read the rest at CityBeat.