Felonious Verses: Louisville Man Charged With Threatening The President In a Poem

An alleged neo-Nazi in Louisville is pushing the constitutional envelope with a poem that resulted in a criminal charge as a threat to kill the President. Johnny Logan Spencer Jr. is charged with threatening the life of the President with his poem that refers to killing a black president but not Obama by name.

I have long harbored serious constitutional concerns over the federal law used to investigate and charge people for threats against the President. The Justice Department takes the position that even saying “I wanted to shoot that man” in reference to a president is a federal crime as opposed to free speech. Such expressions are juvenile and common in our society.

The case against Spencer, 27, is based on a sixteen-line poem entitled “The Sniper” including the statement “DIE negro DIE.” Assistant U.S. Attorney Philip Chance insists “[t]his is a threat by one individual against another because he is the president and because he is black.”

In fairness to Chance, this is consistent with past prosecutions. However, I strongly disagree with the premise of these prosecutions. The poem is vile but it is also an act of free speech and should be protected by the Constitution. It is possible to be both vile and protected speech.

Spencer faced five years in prison and a $250,000 fine for writing and publishing a poem.

What is particularly disturbing is that Oliver Stone can do a movie on killing a black president but Johnny Spencer cannot do a poem on the same premise. It is an example of criminalizing speech that should be anathema to Americans — regardless of how unsympathetic we are to the defendant.

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50 thoughts on “Felonious Verses: Louisville Man Charged With Threatening The President In a Poem”

  1. lol

    It’s funny you should mention the Ghost of Marley. I love it when he comes to visit too! But music is like anything: tastes may vary. I submit the case of my grandfather, who was a big Hank Sr. and Hoagy Carmichael fan but thought most country music was “sweet ass in the piney woods music not worth listening to.” One man’s artistic trash is another man’s treasure. That’s part of the beauty of art. Beyond pure aesthetic evaluation it’s all subjective preference. And very often connected to memory. One is more likely to like music or a painting or a film when other events happening contemporaneously are working to create a good memory. The inverse is true as well.

  2. It still sounds like crap. It was not until a few years ago that I could listen to Bob Marley, take that for what it is worth. lol

  3. Actually you’re both wrong. Rap is like any music – or any art – for that matter. Sturgeon’s Law applies: “Ninety percent of everything is crud.”

    And some of the best rappers on the planet not only have jazz-complex arrangements and composition (see their song In 3’s for an example or any of their instrumental pieces), but they are three Jewish guys from NYC.

    It’s Beastie Boys. Neither black nor crud but certainly rappers.


    And what do you know about art? Let’s ask Groucho . . .

    “Well, Art is Art, isn’t it? Still, on the other hand, water is water. And east is east and west is west and if you take cranberries and stew them like applesauce they taste much more like prunes than rhubarb does. Now you tell me what you know.”

    And while we’re at it . . .

    “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

  4. Yeah, good point. “Death of a President” was about Bush being assassinated and it even gave a DATE in the film he would be killed, October 19, 2007—a date I was looking forward to—oh well. That was directed by Gabriel Range. I have the movie–it sucks.

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