Criminal Case No. RWT 11-091
Article III Federal Judge, Roger W. Titus is in favor of online harassment and threats to citizens of this country based on his ruling December 15, 2011 stating that he grants the motion to dismiss the indictment against William Lawerence Cassidy, and that further motions filed by Cassidy are moot.
It’s amazing how the internet plays a role in our lives today, and how some people can take the very technology that saves lives, and use it to destroy others. Judge Titus rules that the violent and threatening tweets by William Cassidy against a Buddhist Teacher and Spiritual Leader summing over 8,000 for more than 18 months are protected under free speech. What? That’s right folks, it’s okay to be a stalker over the internet (and we assume if you come with a violent past and criminal record that’s a bonus) and spend your life destroying another for the sake of … jealousy? Greed? Anger? Or D) all the above.
This is a shocking ruling when you consider that the “free speech” Tweets, sent by William Cassidy to well-known Buddhist leader Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo (Alyce Zeoli), comprise literally thousands of threats and disparaging comments, sent from several different accounts. The experience of it kept Jetsunma in her home for over a year so afraid to leave her property and risk that Cassidy would harm her. With his imminent release we can only imagine how frightened Jetsunma must feel.
This ruling is all the more surprising given all the attention that cyber bullying has gotten in the past year, as so-called “harmless” online communications has led to increased suicide statistics (among youth). There is also research that shows that constant monitoring of phone texts among teenage cyber bullying, which can also translate to twitter streams creates as much emotional damage and anxiety as those comments would in person.
Everything about Cassidy’s actions was extreme, from the content of his Tweets to the frequency of them to the manner in which he doled them out. This is not speech to be safeguarded. The judge cited in so many words that since Jetsunma is a “public figure” she should expect such harassment. What? This is hate, pure and simple, being spewed at someone in a public way in the hopes of exacting an emotional price.
Who knows what Judge Titus was thinking when he made this decision, but one thing is for sure, he wasn’t thinking about the victim. He needs to learn that what happens online has a very direct and real consequence.
Cyber bullying is the use of the Internet or related technologies to harm other people, in a deliberate, repeated, and hostile manner. Cyber stalking is the use of the Internet or other electronic means to stalk or harass an individual, a group of individuals, or an organization. It may include false accusations, monitoring, making threats, identity theft, damage to data or equipment, the solicitation of minors for sex, or gathering information in order to harass. The definition of “harassment” must meet the criterion that a reasonable person in possession of the same information would regard it as sufficient to cause another reasonable person distress. Cyber stalking is different from spatial or offline stalking. However, it sometimes leads to it, or is accompanied by it.
We think Cassidy meets the requirement of the definitions.
Judge Titus dismissed the ruling because he likened Twitter to critical postings on a public message board, rather than harassing someone with phone calls or private emails. “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.”
Judge Titus has also missed the point that the indictment was more about harassment and threats, and less about religion or if someone is a public figure or not. We certainly hope that the government will seek an appeal and justice can be served, finally.