- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Three Detroit men under investigation for allegedly posting threats against police on their Facebook pages will not face criminal charges, as prosecutors found their messages did not constitute true threats under terrorism statutes and that in two cases police fouled their investigations by failing to read the men their Miranda rights.

In one case, a 40-year-old man admitted to posting “All lives can’t matter until Black Lives Matter!!!! Kill all white cops!!!!” while he was drunk on vacation in Puerto Rico.

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy said her office could not bring charges in that case because the post was made outside her jurisdiction and it did not constitute a true threat.

“He did not indicate that he was the one who was going to kill all white cops, and never said that his Facebook friends should kill all white cops,” the prosecutor’s office explained in a press release issued Tuesday. “Further, he did not indicate when all white officers should be killed or which white officers should be killed. There is no evidence the suspect took any action himself, or did anything to facilitate the killing of white officers.”

The threats, made in July, came at a time when police around the country were on edge following a targeted attack that left five officers dead in Dallas.

In announcing the arrest last month of four men who had posted messages on social media that included threats against police, Detroit Police Chief James Craig said his department was “not going to tolerate a threat to kill a police officer.”

SEE ALSO: FBI ‘very seriously’ concerned with foreign attempts to influence U.S. elections

“I believe that when you make a threat like that, more so in today’s environment, that’s a problem for me,” Chief Craig said at the time, adding that the men were released from custody while prosecutors reviewed potential charges.

But three of the cases fell apart as prosecutors sought to uncover evidence to determine the message writers’ intent. In two of the cases, police failed to read suspects their Miranda rights when they were brought in for questioning — making their statements unusable in the cases against them.

Evidence in a fourth case involving a 44-year-old man remains under investigation.

A spokesman for the Detroit Police Department did not return calls seeking comment.

The length of time it has taken to investigate and make charging decisions was due in part to “substandard” work on the part of investigating officers, Ms. Worthy said in a statement.

“The postings on Facebook are disturbing, especially since they are directed at the police who place their lives on the line each day to protect the public,” Ms. Worthy said. “However, in order to have a case we can prosecute, we must be able to prove it beyond a reasonable doubt in court.”

At the time of the arrests, First Amendment experts questioned whether the content of the Facebook messages was specific enough to be regarded as a criminal threat or if the messages would be considered protected free speech.

One case involved a 28-year-old man who made comments on a photo of Micah Johnson, the man who killed five Dallas police officers, including, “He is my hero he inspired me to do the exact same thing,” according to prosecutors. Police failed to read the man his Miranda rights. After he was questioned and said he was “joking” in the comment, one of the police officers “appeared satisfied that there was no threat and said, ‘I don’t think you are going to be out killing police officers,’” according to the prosecutor’s statement.

In addition to the charge of making a terrorist threat, police also apparently suggested charges including unlawful posting of a message with aggravating circumstances, false report or threat of terrorism, and unlawful posting of message.

Prosecutors declined to file any of the charges, noting that all of the crimes require that they prove the suspect was the one who made or posted the threat. Because police failed to read to the man his Miranda rights, prosecutors were unable to use any of the information the man provided during his interrogation.

The third case, involving a 33-year-old man, included three posts on Facebook. One involved a video of the Dallas shooting, and the man commented, “This needs to happen more often until the ppl are free from government terrorism.” Another included a photo of a person firing a gun into a police car, and the man commented, “Let’s get it” and a series of emoji handguns. The third post included a photo of Black Panther members and the comment “cause I am loaded and I am ready.”

Police brought the man in for questioning on an outstanding traffic warrant but failed to read him his Miranda rights.

Prosecutors noted that none of the posts targeted a specific person or group, and that the man had deleted the posts even before he was brought in for questioning, telling officials that “he realized it was a stupid thing to do.”

The man’s statements during his interrogation were the only evidence offered to prosecutors, who concluded that because he was not read his Miranda rights, they had “insufficient evidence to establish that it was, in fact, the suspect who made the three posts on Facebook.”

One of the officers who interrogated the man also apparently told him police could curtail his right to free speech because he had open traffic warrants.

“It is a free country and you can say what you want to say unless you have traffic warrants. Then instead of coming to you now we can lock you up for warrants and talk to you here,” the officer said, according to the prosecutor’s statement.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide