Happy Monday! Have a good weekend? Some folks went out to enjoy the great (if a bit chilly) outdoors. Others stayed home getting cozy.
If you are of the second group, and if “coziness” for you includes a computer or some other social media vehicle…you had best be careful.
Regardless of what you may believe, your First Amendment rights are not quite absolute.
According to Boston.com, New Hampshire’s Janet Delfuoco, 50 years of age and hereinafter, the “Defendant”, is finding this out first-hand.
The hard way.
She has been charged with posting threatening statements on Facebook against two judges.
In fact, she has been indicted by a Rockingham County grand jury , on four charges of threatening a county circuit court judge and a superior court judge by posting statements threatening to harm them. She also is charged with a misdemeanor count of criminal threatening.
The Defendant, a nurse who has been in court dealing with custody and property matters involving her ex-husband, admitted today that she had posted a rant on Facebook and took it down. She says she is planning to be represented by a public defender.
She is scheduled to be arraigned February 2nd.
As a dear friend of mine would say, “Not so fast there, Buttercup”. The decision of whether to be represented by a public defender, unless you want to hire one on your own, is not totally up to you.
The Defendant is a nurse. She is gainfully employed. That means that she may not qualify for court-appointed counsel. The Judge will turn to the Department of Probation to interview her and determine whether she is indigent enough to be given free counsel.
That issue aside, she may want to consider something before she makes such a decision. At least in Massachusetts, once a defendant is arraigned, the matter goes onto their criminal record. There it will stay for quite awhile, regardless of how the case ends.
The only way to resolve the matter, if possible, without it appearing on her record will be to resolve it prior to arraignment.
She will not be assigned a court appointed lawyer until the day of her arraignment. Therefore, showing up for her arraignment without an experienced attorney who knows about the case ahead of time is to blow that opportunity.
“But Sam, you have often said that many court appointed lawyers are very good and very experienced.”
That’s true. However, I have yet to hear of a lawyer who, no matter how good in the courtroom, is able to turn back time. Without doing so, the lawyer will not be fully “armed” with knowledge of the matter at the arraignment.
Not for nothing, but if she had had an attorney at the time, perhaps she would not have made what is basically a confession as recounted above.
Making a threat to commit a crime is, in itself, is a crime. When that threat is to actually assault someone, or worse, it is considered even worse.
Making such threats…in writing…against one, not to mention two, judges is truly scorned.
“What if she was simply speaking her mind…exercising her First Amendment right of free speech? After all, she did take the posting down.”
Years ago, maybe she would have been given some kind of a “pass”. However, this is the day of terrorist threats. It is the day of all kinds of issues stemming from social media. This is a cyber-crime.
These types of threats even against an average person is usually prosecuted. The fact that the “victims” were judges makes it worse.
As a side note, it is natural to sometimes get upset by what happens in court. The remedy is to try to appeal. Threatening the judges is not only likely to get you in trouble…it is probably not going to help you very much in the original matter.