A college student in Michigan who posted a picture of a semi-automatic rifle lost an appeal to drop the “terrorist threat" charge he faces.
Lucas Gerhard, a student at Lake Superior State University in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, can be charged for posting a Snapchat story of an AR-15 accompanied by an offensive caption, the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled June 24.
“Takin this bad boy up, this outta make the snowflakes melt, aye? And I mean snowflakes as in snow [winky face emoji],” Gerhard wrote in the Aug. 22, 2019 post, referencing his plans to bring his gun with him to college.
After Gerhard made the post, two Lake Superior State students alerted the public safety department. The university allows students to bring firearms to school so long as they are registered with the campus police. When Gerhard went to register his gun the next morning, he was questioned by security.
In his reference to “snowflakes” — a pejorative for Democrats, liberals, and leftists — Gerhard meant he wanted to make liberal students’ “minds melt” by offending them, he told public safety. He was arrested and accused of threatening terrorism, a charge he attempted to have thrown out. When he was unsuccessful the first time, he appealed the decision.
“To the extent defendant argues that the facts failed to establish that he made a true threat for purposes of whether the speech in his Snapchat post was protected by the First Amendment, we again disagree, but his arguments are appropriate for consideration by the jury,” the court said.
Gerhard’s lawyers argued his comments were protected by the First Amendment and that the statute under which he was being prosecuted was too vague and, therefore, unconstitutional.
That law prohibits people from threatening “to commit an act of terrorism and communicates the threat to any other person.” It defines an act of terrorism as a violent felony, an act dangerous to human life, or one meant to “intimidate or coerce a civilian population or influence or affect the conduct of government or a unit of government through intimidation or coercion.”
In response to Gerhard facing a "terrorist threat" charge, Michigan state Rep. John Reilly, a Republican, introduced a bill to make the language in the law more specific, but it failed to make it out of committee, the Sault News reported.
Gerhard’s fate is now in the hands of a jury in Chippewa County, Michigan. He could face up to 20 years in prison, a fine of $20,000, or both.
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Original Author: Charles Hilu
Original Location: Michigan college student loses appeal to drop ‘terrorist threat’ charge