I present for your enjoyment yet another case where a petty government bureaucrat offers an excellent reason why no one should entrust petty government bureaucrats with any sort of power. Kristin Holmes, 26, of Chesterfield, Virginia, was apparently mistaken for someone else on Facebook. This mistake led to a vigorous online argument between Holmes and an as yet unidentified other person that turned a bit vitriolic. The exchange ended with Ms. Holmes posting the above selfie holding a pistol, with the comment, “So you know the difference when u (sic) come find me.” . . .
The result of Ms. Holmes’ impertenant post? An arrest on charges of harassment by computer.
“It wasn’t a threat,” Holmes, of Chesterfield, said. “I thought it was a funny picture, and then I realized later it was a little bit intimidating. So I took it down.”
Before she did, someone reported the picture to Henrico police. Holmes now faces up to a year in prison and a $2,500 fine.
Holmes was arrested under a Virginia law, passed in 2000, that criminalizes obscene or threatening language online or in public.
Kevin Carroll, a police sergeant with the Chesterfield County Police Department, and President of the Fraternal Order of Police of Virginia, offered some thoughts that demonstrated a shocking lack of understanding of the right to freedom of speech.
“It’s not a matter of free speech,” he told the [New York] Daily News. “Free speech doesn’t say you have the right to insult somebody else or threaten them in any form.”
Well, the right to freedom of speech does include the right to insult people – even cops, and even people on Facebook. Threatening speech is a different matter, but (keeping in mind that we don’t quite have all of the facts in this story yet,) I suspect that a prosecutor will have to jump through a few hoops to connect the photograph posted above to evade the First Amendment and get a conviction in this case.
[Hat tip: Charles C.W. Cooke]
DISCLAIMER: The above is an opinion piece, and is not legal advice, nor does it create an attorney-client relationship in any sense. If you need legal advice on this subject, you are strongly urged to hire and consult your own counsel.