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Kill the Senators  The New York lawsuit tests the limits of free speech

Kill the Senators The New York lawsuit tests the limits of free speech

(New York) Freedom of expression may be sacred and protected by the US Constitution. We do not advocate with impunity for the killing of US elected officials on social networks: this is what a popular jury decided on Wednesday. Yorkeon, after a week of hearings commemorating the January 6 attack on the Capitol.

Catherine Triumphy
France Media

Brendan Hunt, nicknamed “X-Ray Ultra,” 37, is accused of “threatening to kill” elected members of the United States Congress – including Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer and the young Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) – with “intent to interfere in the performance of their duties” or “To avenge their implementation.”

He was found guilty after only three hours of deliberation. He faces up to 10 years in prison when his sentence is handed down on June 22.

Brendan Hunt was involved in messages posted on various networks: The first, dated December 6, 2020, on Facebook, Donald Trump, the then president, called for organizing “a public execution of Pelosi, AOC, Schumer, etc.” and “topple these Communists” “. “If you don’t, the citizens will.”

The most recent was on January 8, two days after the attack on the Capitol by Donald Trump supporters, who refused to believe Joe Biden’s presidential victory. Brendan Hunt then posted an 88-second video on the popular far-right BitChute called “Kill the Senators,” where he said, facing the camera, “We need to go back to Capitol Hill. And this time we come with our guns … What … You have to do is arm yourself, go to Washington, maybe to be nominated […] And they put bullets in their heads. ”

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A spokesperson for the plaintiffs said after the verdict that it was this video that led to his jury conviction.

Simple Rhetoric?

After the January 6 “mutiny”, the FBI deployed its nets in all directions to stop the rioters. Of the thousands of calls the Federal Police received next, someone alerted him to the existence of this video.

Brendan Hunt, son of a retired judge who introduces himself as an actor, musician, and journalist, was arrested January 19, the day before Joe Biden was inaugurated, at his home in Queens, New York.

But the agents did not find weapons or evidence of their involvement or contact with an extremist group at his home. Prosecutors acknowledge that Hunt was neither on Capitol Hill, nor even in Washington.

Were the threats of this man who quoted “Mein Kampf” in a text and said that Donald Trump should take power “like Hitler” seriously, was he really intending to attack the elected officials?

The court-appointed attorneys said no, they are just “biting speeches,” opinions he has every “right to say,” “shocking as they are,” under the First Amendment .. of the United States Constitution. His statements were less serious, according to them, as the accused had alcohol problems, and had only 99 subscribers to his video channel.

One lawyer, Leticia Olivera, argued in her Tuesday plea that “nobody takes” his messages seriously, and that he himself had pulled his video clip on BitChute the next day, after several criticisms from netizens, the last of which was called a clown. .

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Attorney General David Kessler responded in the indictment on Wednesday, but withdraw or not, “the First Amendment does not protect” from such threats.

He stressed that “the government does not need to prove that the accused attempted to kill” an elected official, as simply saying “a threat is a crime.” He added that even if it was launched on social media and not directed directly to the target people.

To make the jury feel the threat was “real,” prosecutors during the trial returned a video of the Capitol attack, and cited a Capitol police officer, who testified about the “surreal” day on the sixth day. January.

Will the judgment be appealed in a country where the First Amendment is sacred? “I am sure that on appeal, the issue of freedom of expression will be raised,” Dimitriy Shakhnevich, professor of criminal law at New York City University, told AFP.

The FBI has arrested more than 400 people in the United States for their participation in the attack on the Capitol Building. This federal trial was the first to trigger these events.