A California appeals court has reversed an earlier decision against an aspiring rap artist, ruling two women who felt threatened by his lyrics can pursue felony charges against him.
The court dismissed last week the Santa Barbara County Magistrate’s ruling tossing the case, and officially paves the way for the rapper, Anthony Murillo, to once again stand trial over his lyrical content.
Mr. Murillo of Orcutt, California, landed in hot water in late 2013 after posting a song on the Internet under his rap alias, Lil A, in which he reflected on a friend convicted of sexually abusing two underage women.
Attorneys for the women said their clients felt threatened by the song, “Moment for Life Remix,” because they believed Mr. Murillo was telling them they were in danger.
“I said go and get the Feds/’Cause you’re gonna end up dead/You’re going to be laying on that bed/’Cause I’m coming for your head, bitch,” he rapped in the song.
Online, the song was accompanied by an image of the rapper holding a shotgun.
Mr. Murillo was charged with threatening to use force or violence against a crime victim.
But a judge in Santa Barbara decided in May 2014 that the rapper’s lyrics, while “misogynistic” and “vulgar,” were protected speech and dismissed the felony complaint, legal industry trade publication The Recorder reported.
The appeals court disagreed, ruling that “a reasonable listener” could infer that the lyrics “constitute a true threat” to the women.
“An obvious question in this case is whether an alleged threat directed at specific persons is any less a threat when it is sung or spoken in a recording and played for an audience,” Judge Arthur Gilbert wrote for the three-justice panel.
“Does it matter whether the alleged threat is on a work in a museum of modern art? Philosopher and media expert Marshall McLuhan posited that the ‘medium is the message.’ That may be so, but here the trier of fact determines the nature of the message whatever the medium.”
David Andreasen, an attorney for the rapper, said he was considering which legal avenues to take next, The Recorder reported.
Per the appellate panel’s ruling, the case against Mr. Murillo will go back to the Santa Barbara court that had initially dismissed the charges.