Feeds

Judge dismisses charges against accused Twitter stalker

Offensive tweets protected by US Constitution

The Power of One Infographic

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.” ®

The Power of One Brief: Top reasons to choose HP BladeSystem

More from The Register

next story
Sit back down, Julian Assange™, you're not going anywhere just yet
Swedish court refuses to withdraw arrest warrant
UK Parliament rubber-stamps EMERGENCY data grab 'n' keep bill
Just 49 MPs oppose Drip's rushed timetable
MPs wave through Blighty's 'EMERGENCY' surveillance laws
Only 49 politcos voted against DRIP bill
EU's top data cops to meet Google, Microsoft et al over 'right to be forgotten'
Plan to hammer out 'coherent' guidelines. Good luck chaps!
Delaware pair nabbed for getting saucy atop Mexican eatery
Burrito meets soft taco in alleged rooftop romp outrage
British cops cuff 660 suspected paedophiles
Arrests people allegedly accessing child abuse images online
LightSquared backer sues FCC over spectrum shindy
Why, we might as well have been buying AIR
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Prevent sensitive data leakage over insecure channels or stolen mobile devices.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.
Mobile application security vulnerability report
The alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, and the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.