EVANSVILLE, Ind. – The attorney for an Evansville man accused of making threats on Twitter, prompting the cancelation of a college baseball game, is arguing the remarks are free speech protected by the U.S. Constitution.
Defense attorney John Brinson is asking a judge to dismiss two felony intimidation charges filed against 24-year-old Naquan Powell last month. The charges are Class D felonies punishable by six months to three years in prison.
The comments posted on Twitter on April 16, a day after the bombings at the Boston Marathon, led the University of Evansville to cancel a baseball game scheduled for that evening.
According to the Evansville Police Department the tweet said: We cant get any type of mental health help in this damn town. I bet theyd wanna help us if we shoot up a @UEAthletics game tho.
Moments earlier, a tweet from the same user account said: Cant get evaluated for mental health in evansville Indiana until we shoot up @EvansvillePD apparently.
In a court document supporting the motion to dismiss, Brinson argued that the Twitter posts dont meet the definition of a threat in Indiana law. Instead of being a threat, he argued, the statements were exaggerated speech.
“The expressions are not a direct threat, or an implied threat, or a conditional threat. The expressions are not in the form of I intended to harm someone, and cannot even be construed to convey that meaning,” Brinson wrote. “They are not in the in the conditional form of, If I dont get what I want, I will harm someone. They express only that there is such a lack of mental health care available that a person would have to do something crazy, such as shoot up an athletic or a police station before the system will take notice and provide mental health care.”
The tweets were posted by the Twitter account @PopeQuanPaul. Evansville Police Department Sgt. Jason Cullum said investigators were able to trace the posts back to Powell.
In the affidavit of probable cause for his arrest, a police detective wrote that Powell admitted making the statements and said he did so while trying to find a way for his girlfriend to receive mental health treatment.
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Attorney: Twitter 'threats' free speech