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From: Paul Mendez (e-mail him)
Re: Joe Guzzardi's Column: Maryland Gov. O'Malley Jails American Patriot
I attended Walter Abbot's trial today in Baltimore.
The short version is that Abbot fought the law and the law won.[ Man Guilty of Threatening Governor, by Jennifer McMenamin, Baltimore Sun, October 21, 2008]
The long version is that Abbott's defense was going to be that his statement—that if he ever met Gov. Martin O'Malley he would strangle him—was part of a larger, political message about how O'Malley was selling out Maryland's working class by encouraging illegal immigration, and that he had no intention of actually killing the governor.
Therefore, his threat was merely a figure of speech and protected by the First Amendment.
But the State requested, and the judge agreed, that the First Amendment element could not be argued to the jury.
According to the judge, a threat in the context of a political statement does not take away the threat.
The jury's sole task then became to decide if the communication was a threat or not.
The State further asserted, and the judge agreed, that the ability or intention to carry out the threat is irrelevant to the Maryland statute against threatening public officials.
The prosecutor contended that even a person with an "extreme disability" could be found guilty.
The judge's instructions to the jury were that the State had no burden to prove Abbott had the intent or ability to strangle O'Malley, and that there was no requirement that O'Malley felt threatened or even was aware of Abbott's email.
The only question was did Abbott make a threat to O'Malley's life. Since Abbott admitted sending the email and since it clearly threatened O'Malley's life, the jury had little choice.
Nevertheless, it was encouraging that it deliberated over an hour before returning a "guilty" verdict.
Obviously, there were some who didn't think the case was so black and white.
Abbott got six months detention (suspended), two years unsupervised probation, and $500 fine. That's pretty much what would have happened if he had taken a plea bargain deal.
But Abbott will appeal.
As for Walter, he's holding up better than I would be!
He had hoped that he would be acquitted so the outcome clearly surprised him.
But Abbot is the old-fashioned, working-class, self-reliant type who is used to life kicking him around.
And—good news as far as spreading our message goes—Abbott has made several appearances on talk radio emphasizing the problems that illegal immigration creates for Americans and their families. [e-mail Abbott here.]