by William Skink
At Flathead Memo, James Conner is continuing to follow the David Lenio case. For those who don’t remember, Lenio made a series of disturbing tweets, which may have just been lost to the virtual ether if a Twitter vigilante hadn’t engaged him, documented the tweets, then convinced local Kalispell authorities to arrest and charge him. Here are some examples of the tweets:
Even animals without money get land to live on, hunt & forage; but Americans without dollars must be homeless? I want to shoot up a school
USA needs a Hitler to rise to power and fix our #economy and i’m about ready to give my life to the cause or just shoot a bunch of #kikes …
I’m a wage slave to ink and paper dollars we print to bailout jewish mega banks as kikes go on bout #WhitePrivilege & I’m not suppose to kill? …
The problem, legally speaking, stared when Lenio was over-charged, creating some constitutional problems. This Washington Post article does a good job of explaining the legalese and ends with this:
I’m one of those “kikes” that Lenio was mentioning, though unfortunately those mega banks have been slow sending me my share of the loot. And I have nothing but contempt for statements such as Lenio’s, whatever groups they might be said about. Moreover, as I mentioned, Lenio’s specific statements, with their talk of murder, might be prosecuted as true threats of criminal conduct; there are possible problems with such a prosecution as well, but at least that’s a plausible approach.
But the Montana prosecutor has deliberately chosen to go far beyond the threats argument. Instead, the prosecutor has interpreted the Montana criminal defamation statute in a way that I don’t think any criminal defamation statute has been interpreted in decades — a way that risks criminalizing derogatory opinions as well as controversial factual statements about religious groups, racial or ethnic groups, either sex, sexual orientations, professions, political movements, and more.
If the criminal defamation count is upheld, “hate speech” prosecutions (again, even for statements that lack any threat of violence) would become eminently viable. A dangerous potential precedent, and one that I hope the Montana courts will avoid setting.
In September, District Judge Heidi J. Ulbricht did dismiss the defamation charge, but not the intimidation charge. The prosecutor, sensing a difficult uphill legal battle with even prosecuting the intimidation charge, could be working with Lenio’s attorney to agree to a plea deal that would have Lenio pleading down to a misdemeanor.
That possibility has some human rights groups crying foul and demanding a vigorous prosecution toward a felony conviction, as reported by Flathead Memo. There is even a Rabbi from New Jersey getting involved.
Making David Lenio a felon is going to accomplish what exactly? The hope is probably that his felon status will keep him from getting easy access to guns. The reality is it will also keep him significantly more limited in his job opportunities and housing options, so when he gets out, which he definitely will, he will be more economically disadvantaged, and therefore more desperate, and therefore more dangerous.
The effort to push for a felony conviction is misguided and short-sighted. While actual violent human rights violations are happening in places like the West Bank and Yemen, an out-of-state Rabbi wants to expose David Lenio to the institutional violence of prison.
To contrast Lenio’s disturbing tweets, last week a video of threats being issued over a loud speaker by an Israeli officer ratcheted up an already brewing crisis. What this Israeli officer said is made even more horrific because the IDF actually has the capacity to make good on these threats:
“People of Aida refugee camp, we are the occupation forces. You throw stones, and we will hit you with gas until you all die. The children, the youth, the old people – you will all die. We won’t leave any of you alive,” the unidentified officer says.
“We have arrested one of you. He is with us now. We took him from his home, and we will slaughter and kill him while you watch if you keep throwing stones,” the officer continues, referring to a 25-year-old Palestinian who was arrested on Thursday and subsequently released.
“Go home or we will gas you until you die. Your families, your children, everyone – we will kill you.”
Is this officer going to face felony intimidation charges?