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Letting Off Too Much Steam Could Lead to Terrorism Charges

Posted by Phoenix Harris | Oct 14, 2015 | 0 Comments

We've all been in frustrating situations and may have said something we shouldn't have. Whether the frustration is caused by bureaucratic delays, anger at the police, or someone taking your parking spot, you should be careful about what you say and where you say it, or you may face criminal charges for making terrorist threats. Given the public concern regarding terrorism, school shootings, and police brutality, any threats can be taken very seriously, even when no actual harm was ever intended.

A veteran in Texas is facing terroristic threats charges after Veterans Affairs officials said he threatened to shoot up a dental clinic. John Garlington, 83-years-old, who served in the U.S. Army and Navy Reserves, went to the VA clinic for work on dental bridge. He became frustrated with the service he was getting (or wasn't getting), after his scheduled appointments became delayed time and time again, for nearly 6 months. Garlington said he mouthed off after another delay, telling them, “maybe I needed to go over there and shake things up and get things working.”

Garlington faced a federal charge for making terroristic threats, charged as a class C misdemeanor. Veterans Affairs officials claimed he threatened to shoot up the place, which Garlington and his wife denied. Furious, Garlington planned to defend himself, but finally hired a lawyer after his wife, son and pastor all pressured him to do so. His attorney spoke with the VA police and the federal prosecutor, finally resolving the case with a $100 fine.

Another man appeared frustrated by medical care in Missouri, and allegedly made a threat to hospital officials at the Missouri University Hospital. After 51-year-old Ruben Espinosa made a phone call to the hospital, hospital officials immediately reported the treat to MU police. The specifics of the threat have not been reported, but the police contacted Espinosa at his home and placed him under arrest. He was charged with making a terrorist threat with reckless disregard of risk, and is being held on bond.

Prior to social media, many idle threats were simply ignored. However, now that one person's rant can be shared with millions of people, and any threat can be reported to officials. A man in Nevada has been sentenced to serve a year and a day after making “cop hater” threats on Facebook. Dustin McCaskill pleaded guilty to interstate communications with intent to extort, for knowingly sending messages containing threats to injure law enforcement officers.

McCaskill made posts on his Colorado Cop Block Facebook page which included advocating the death of the police and FBI, and if someone shoots an Oklahoma police officer, he would donate to their defense fund. He seemed to taunt law enforcement to come after him, posting, “I just made a threat. I'm going to be the pigs' worst nightmare. Come get me.”

In light of the recent school shootings, threats against colleges, universities and high schools are taken especially seriously. A student at Emory University was recently arrested for allegedly posting an anonymous social media message on Yik-Yak stating, “I'm shooting up the school. Tomorrow. Stay in your rooms. The ones on the quad are the ones who will go first. Police tracked the post to Emily Sakamoto, who was arrested on suspicion of making terrorist threats.

A 14-year-old student at Salinas High School in California faces a terrorist threat charge after posting a photo on Twitter of graffiti in the school's bathroom. The graffiti alluded to shooting up the school, and while the student claimed he was not the one responsible, and the police found no evidence he had written the graffiti, he was still booked into juvenile hall.

About the Author

Phoenix Harris

Ms. Harris was named one of the "Top 100 Trial Lawyers" by the National Trial Lawyers Association in 2014, "Top 40 Under 40" in 2015, "Top Lawyer" by Who's Who Global Directory, and a "Rising Star" by Super Lawyers in 2016. In the past year alone, Ms. Harris has been responsible for dismissals, acquittals, or reduced charges in many serious cases where her clients were unjustly charged, such as: accessory to homicide, felonious mob assault, attempted malicious wounding, robbery, abduction, arson, possession with intent to distribute, burglary, counterfeiting, sodomy with a minor, child abuse, domestic assault, and more

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