Feeds

Judge dismisses charges against accused Twitter stalker

Offensive tweets protected by US Constitution

Boost IT visibility and business value

A federal judge has dismissed a criminal case against a man charged with stalking a religious leader on Twitter on the grounds that the more than 8,000 messages he posted, some predicting her violent death, were protected by the US constitution.

Thursday's ruling by US District Judge Roger W. Titus of Maryland was among the first to scrutinize a 2006 amendment to a federal anti-stalking law that extended it to the internet and other online forums. The decision dismissed criminal charges against William Lawrence Cassidy, who used multiple Twitter accounts to sharply criticize a religious figure identified only by the initials A.Z.

“Although in bad taste, Mr. Cassidy’s Tweets and Blog posts about A.Z. challenge her character and qualifications as a religious leader,” Titus wrote in the 27-page ruling (PDF). “And, while Mr. Cassidy’s speech may have inflicted substantial emotional distress, the Government’s Indictment here is directed squarely at protected speech: anonymous, uncomfortable Internet speech addressing religious matters.”

The New York Times identified the target of the tweets as Buddhist religious leader Alyce Zeoli. An attorney for Zeoli told the paper her client was “appalled and frightened by the judge’s ruling.”

Attorneys for The Electronic Frontier Foundation, which filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the case, hailed the decision as a victory for free speech online.

“We are grateful that the court recognized the critical First Amendment issues at stake in this case,” Staff Attorney Hanni Fakhoury, said in a statement. “Law enforcement may have disagreed with the tone and content of Mr. Cassidy's speech, but the police hauling a Twitter user to jail for offending a public figure was the greater harm.”

UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh, writing on The Volokh Conspiracy blog, also praised the decision as “a substantial victory for free speech.” ®

Build a business case: developing custom apps

More from The Register

next story
The police are WRONG: Watching YouTube videos is NOT illegal
And our man Corfield is pretty bloody cross about it
China hopes home-grown OS will oust Microsoft
Doesn't much like Apple or Google, either
UK government accused of hiding TRUTH about Universal Credit fiasco
'Reset rating keeps secrets on one-dole-to-rule-them-all plan', say MPs
Fast And Furious 6 cammer thrown in slammer for nearly three years
Man jailed for dodgy cinema recording of Hollywood movie
Caught red-handed: UK cops, PCSOs, specials behaving badly… on social media
No Mr Fuzz, don't ask a crime victim to be your pal on Facebook
e-Borders fiasco: Brits stung for £224m after US IT giant sues UK govt
Defeat to Raytheon branded 'catastrophic result'
Don't even THINK about copyright violation, says Indian state
Pre-emptive arrest for pirates in Karnataka
Yes, but what are your plans if a DRAGON attacks?
Local UK gov outs most ridiculous FoI requests...
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup
IT departments are embracing cloud backup, but there’s a lot you need to know before choosing a service provider. Learn all the critical things you need to know.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?