The Supreme Court has reversed the conviction of a Pennsylvania man who said violent messages he posted on Facebook were therapeutic, not true threats. Anthony Elonis was arrested by the FBI, which had been monitoring his posts.
At issue is the standard by which a lower court viewed rap lyrics and messages from Elonis, who often posted graphically violent language along with disclaimers that he was merely asserting his First Amendment rights.
As we reported last year, Elonis began posting violent messages after his wife of seven years left him in 2010. The messages he posted to Facebook prompted Elonis' now ex-wife to get a state protection order against him, and led his bosses to fire him from his job at an amusement park.
Elonis was charged with threatening his wife, a kindergarten class and law enforcement officers — including a female agent who visited his house to question him. All were subjects of rap-style lyrics he posted to Facebook, under the pseudonym Tone Dougie.
A jury convicted him on those counts, and Elonis was sentenced to more than three years in prison.