We have been following the response of police in the aftermath of the murder of two officers in New York. One fear is that this effort will extend to areas of free speech and the arrest this week of a teenager boy in Brooklyn would seem to confirm those concerns. Osiris Aristy posted what police consider to be threatening text and digital cartoon images – or emoji on Facebook. He was arrested for terroristic threats as well as criminal possession of a weapon, criminal use of drugs and criminal possession of marijuana. His bail was set at $150,000.
The posting have since been deleted or taken down, but there are included below.
The emojis show policemen with guns pointed at them and Aristy posted a January 15 photo of Aristy with a revolver and rounds of ammunition captioned: “feel like katxhin a body right now.” There was also a post that read: “N***a run up on me, he gunna get blown down.”
Aristy seems to relish the image of a thug and there is nothing redeeming in his postings. However, the question is where police draw the line between speech and criminal conduct. Prosecutors alleged that the posts “caused New York City police to fear for their safety.” Yet, this type of trash talk is common among rappers and others in popular media. Indeed, some of the language is hard to decipher like “F**k the 83 104 79 98 73 PCTKKKK” and “U know how I rock scrap.” There is a nature lack of sympathy of characters like Aristy but the arrest returns us to the question of “violent speech” and when it can criminalized (here and here and here).
If the arrest is found to have been made in violation of the free speech protection, it could implicate other evidence found at the scene though police could claim an exception to suppression. The subsequent search uncovered a .38 caliber Smith and Wesson firearm in his bedroom and more than 25 grams of marijuana in his living room packaged in 21 Ziplock bags.
83rd Precinct Inspector Maximo Tolentino is quoting that “You make a threat on the internet, we’re going to be watching.” The question is what constitutes a real threat and the implications of the government watching for statements deemed criminal on the Internet.
Where do you think the line should be drawn?
Here are the posts that led to the arrest of Aristy: