Injustice in Tennessee: “Making a Terrorist Threat”

I saw recently on the LRC blog that Professor Michael S. Rozeff posted a story and a portion of a letter sent to him about a black man in Tullahoma, Tennessee who has been railroaded by the hysteria surrounding the “terrorism” issue. From the report: “The man is facing 12 to 20 years in prison for making a hotheaded statement to a government school employee. Tyrone L. Watts, 43, could face from 12 to 20 years after a jury returned guilty verdicts late Tuesday of charges of disorderly conduct and attempted terrorism.” Twenty years for disorderly conduct? Oh my, we have fallen down the rabbit hole for sure. But no, it is the “terrorist threat” that gives you 20 years in Tennessee.

Dr. Rozeff commented:

Lawmakers have literally created the crime of terrorism for possibly or allegedly ill-considered and/or extreme remarks made in a variety of emotional or mental states that include haste, anger, sarcasm, habit, ignorance, being under pressure, stress, the desire to fight back somehow, frustration, displacement, being under the influence of alcohol, or simply lack of restraint and bad judgment. People should not be put in prison for decades for being human and saying things that they have no intention of doing!

Have law makers done this? Have they criminalized saying things in anger or while drunk that no one paid any attention to back during the 20th century? As it turns out the central government and the various states have all enacted laws that make it a very crime to make a terrorist threat. OK then, so what does it mean to make a “terrorist threat”?

For an introduction to laws on making a “terrorist threat” I followed the link Dr. Rozeff gave to see this explanation at a site that tries to explain legal issues to legal laymen like myself. They have a page that says this:

What Exactly Does “Making a Terrorist Threat” Mean?

The crime of “making a terrorist threat” is a recent creation enacted at both the state and federal levels after the terrorist attacks of 9/11.  It is a very general law that can be used to prosecute terrorists, but has been used far more often to prosecute situations involving domestic violence, hate crimes, bomb threats, and school violence.  Indeed, in many states, the term “terrorist” has been amended to mean simply “criminal.”

Although the exact definition varies from state to state, generally one makes a terrorist threat if one threatens to commit a violent crime for the purpose of terrorizing another or of causing public panic.  Some states laws are very narrow, meaning the threat must be very specific and direct, while other states adapt a looser approach, allowing even negligently made threats to be prosecutable.

What are the Elements of a “Terrorist Threat?”

The most commonly used definition of a terrorist or criminal threat has five elements:

  1. Someone willfully threatens to commit a crime that will result in death or great bodily harm.  This means that the threat obviously has to be of a highly dangerous nature.  Threatening to slash someones tires, for instance, would probably not be sufficient.  However, the threat can be made in any medium, written, orally, or electronically transmitted.
  2. The threat was made with the specific intent that it be taken as a threat.  Although this certainly seems like a redundant sentence, it is meant to convey that the threat is a crime even if there is no actual intent to carry it out.  The only intent you need is the intent to make the threat itself.  So if you threaten to blow up a school, you will still be guilty of this crime even if you are completely unarmed and have no means of accomplishing this at all.
  3. The threat is so unequivocal, unconditional, and specific as to convey a gravity of purpose and immediate prospect of execution.  This extremely complicated sounding sentence is very important to the law, so let’s break it down.  Remember you must satisfy ALL of these requirements.Unequivocal: This means that the threat must be a direct statement of what you WILL do, as opposed to CAN do (i.e. “I could be the next man to blow up the federal building” does NOT count).Unconditional: This word is very bizarrely used here, because the courts have directly held that conditional threats (“If you touch me again I’ll kill you”) DO qualify.  It is a gray area, but presumably, the fewer conditions used, the more likely the court will rule that it is a threat.Specific:  The threat cannot be vague (“if you don’t give me a million dollars, something bad will happen”).
  4. The threat actually caused fear in the victim.   People must actually believe your threat for you to be arrested for it.
  5. The fear was reasonable.  If you said that you are going to blow up the White House with your spaceship, it is unlikely that any reasonable person could take this seriously.

Each state may have its own version of these rules.  Missouri, for instance, only considers a terrorist threat one which frightens more than ten people, while California insists that the fear caused be “sustained” (held for more than a brief instant).  Because the laws differ from place to place, it is important to contact a criminal defense attorney familiar with the rulings in your state.

What are the Punishments for Making a Terrorist Threat?

The punishments for making a terrorist threat will depend on what state you are located in, and whether you are charged with a federal or state crime.  Sometimes the punishment can be as little as a year in the county jail.  In other instances (especially under federal law), the punishments can be extremely severe.  Individuals who threaten the use of a biological toxin can receive up to life in prison. The law provides for up to five years in prison for mailing communications that contain any threat to injure the addressee or any other person, and five years for those who lie to law enforcement officials about terrorist hoaxes.

In post 9/11 America, something as juvenile as calling in a phony threat to close down a school or skip a test can land you 20 years in prison.  Obviously, it is not a crime that is taken lightly, and if you’ve been charged with making terrorist threats, it is very important you speak with a criminal defense attorney immediately to discuss your options.

In post 9/11 America, something as juvenile as calling in a phony threat to close down a school or skip a test can land you 20 years in prison.” Come on now, have we gotten to that extreme by now? A fake bomb threat was called in at my high school on several occasions in the spring of 1969 as a prank by a boy who was later caught. He was given a week suspension for the actions — plus a severe talking to, and a paddling. We seem to have arrived at the dystopian idea of “thought crime” in the US. We have arrived at a place where you will speak as the ruling masters allow you to speak or you can be put in a cage for decades. This is the reality, this is not fiction from a writer’s imagination.

Back to the case of the Tennessee man who made a “terrorist threat”. He is a 43 year old family man who got so upset with a public school’s refusal to check out his child early into his custody that he made an angry threat as many people sometimes do when they lose their temper. But in this era of school safety hysteria he should never have allegedly said he would go buy an AK-47 and come back to shoot the place up: if he ever did say that. A lady who lives there sent Dr. Rozeff an e-mail about the incident and she said in part:

The only evidence against this gentlemen was the hearsay of an  inarticulate office worker at his stepson’s school. I have met  Mr. Watts. He was for some time a local pizza delivery driver, a very polite man. Our families later became casually acquainted at various community events. When I was pregnant with my first child he delivered his wife’s old maternity clothes with our pizza.   It certainly did not work in Mr. Watts favor that he is an African-American  (to clarify, I am a white), nor that he was convicted for a felony ten years ago. Perhaps the most damning detail was that this incident occurred two days before the school shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary became national news. On the day of the incident, police questioned a cooperative Watts and released him. Two days later, they returned to his home with a swat team and he was charged. The story was released to the local and state media and concerned parents were up in arms. Local police were beaming with pride that they had ‘stopped an act of terrorism.'”

It looks like the state of Tennessee has destroyed a family in a mindless attempt to “look tough” on crime and to “look tough” on terrorism. If everyone who ever made a hot-headed idle threat was sent to prison we would have at least half of all the men in jail. In addition to this, does it take only the say so of a school employee to put a man in a cage for two decades? Looks like it. Just one more reason to get your kids out of the government schools of the Empire.

This conviction and the legal description cited above tells us that an American citizen may now become a felon based on his speech alone without any intent to harm others or even the ability to harm others. This is an obvious violation of due process and the rights put forth in the Bill of Rights in the Constitution. This means that you may say something out of anger, drunkenness, sarcasm, or as a joke without meaning any of it and end up a convicted criminal in a cage. These are the laws of a police state.

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10 thoughts on “Injustice in Tennessee: “Making a Terrorist Threat”

      • A boy in Texas, where I live, was charged with making a terroristic threat because he joked about shooting up a school on Facebook. He was held on $500,000 bail for four months.
        Half of the people I tell about this immediately say “Well he shouldn’t have said that.” Americans are happy to give up their hard-earned freedoms, and that’s incredibly sad.

  1. Justin’s dad says the woman did a Google search and found his son’s old address was near an elementary school and she called police. Justin Carter was arrested the next month and has been jailed since March 27. He’s charged with making a terroristic threat and is facing eight years in prison, according to his dad.

  2. Oh my goodness! an amazing report dude. Many thanks However I am experiencing issue with ur rss or atom . Dont know why Unable to subscribe to it. Perhaps there is anyone receiving identical rss or atom problem? Anybody who knows kindly respond. Thnkx

  3. “Methuen Public Schools as well as the Methuen Police Department has zero tolerance for this behavior. We believe that all students deserve to learn in a welcoming, non-threatening environment free from intimidation and physical threats,” continued the joint statement issued by Scannell and Solomon on Wednesday.

  4. Cameron B. Dambrosio, 18, was arrested at 1:35 p.m. and charged with communicating a terrorist threat, a felony with a penalty of up to 20 years in prison, said Methuen Police Chief Joseph Solomon. The language was not directed at a specific person or target, officials said, but was a general threat of violence and terrorism.

  5. Pingback: A Tennessee DUI Suspect Threatened To Join ISIS If He Got Arrested

  6. my grandchildrens mother is in jail .i saw a letter from her in my bedroom and decided to read it mostly bc i wanted to know if she even ask about babies age 2 and 6 months .anyway to my deep suprise i read the words i will kill you fing mom . i take it very seriously when threats are on my life .and ,see ing as how this lady was on meth i am actually scared that when she does get out she will come after me . i am taking letter to the jail what will they charge her with ?

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