Willamette Law Online

United States Supreme Court Certiorari Granted


ListPreviousNext


US v. Elonis

Summarized by: 

Date Filed: June 16, 2014
Case #: 13-983
Court Below: 730 F.3d 321 (3d Cir. 2013)
Full Text Opinion: http://www2.ca3.uscourts.gov/opinarch/123798p.pdf

First Amendment: Whether, consistent with the First Amendment and Virginia v. Black, conviction of threatening another person requires proof of the Petitioner’s subjective intent to threaten or whether it is enough to show that a “reasonable person” would regard the statement as threatening.

Petitioner was convicted after his motion to dismiss his indictment was denied of making threatening communications based on comments he posted on a social networking website. Petitioner appealed the conviction. The Third Circuit affirmed, holding that the jury instruction properly reflected the objective intent standard applicable to determination of whether a statement is a “true threat”, Petitioner’s indictment was sufficient, evidence was sufficient to support jury’s finding that Petitioner’s website post regarding explosives was a “true threat”, and the post expressed the intent to use explosives against agents, which also constitutes a “true threat.”



Petitioner argues that continuation of the Ninth Circuit to uphold a subjective standard for more than a decade, coupled with the inconsistency between many state supreme courts and their corresponding federal circuit on the issue, shows that there is a spilt that needs to be addressed. Petitioner also contends that the Third Circuit’s “Negligence Rule” for a crime of pure speech is wrong because the First Amendment in many contexts imposes mens rea requirements. The Supreme Court granted certiorari to decided whether, consistent with the First Amendment and Virginia v. Black, conviction of threatening another person requires proof of the Petitioner’s subjective intent to threaten or whether it is enough to show that a “reasonable person” would regard the statement as threatening. The Court also granted certiorari to decide whether, as a matter of statutory interpretation, conviction of threatening another person under 18 U.S.C. §875(c) requires proof of the Petitioner’s subjective intent to threaten.