Monday, December 17, 2007

Fourth Circuit upholds W.D. Va. conviction for making threats to U.Va.

In U.S. v. Bly, the Fourth Circuit in a published opinion by Judge King, joined by District Judge Conrad, with Judge Motz concurring separately, affirmed the conviction of the defendant under 18 U.S.C. 876(b), for threatening the University of Virginia, rejecting the defendant's arguments that his threats were protected speech, and that the University was not a "person" protected by the statute.

Judge King noted: "Threats — including threats of extortion — are not constitutionally protected simply because they are verbalized or written." On the issue of "personhood," the Court rejected the analogies to cases involving civil liability, such as 42 U.S.C. 1983, under which the state is not a person.

Judge Motz reached the same conclusion by another route, citing pre-1947 statutory construction cases from the Supreme Court.

Jennifer Bockhorst argued this interesting cases for the government.

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