Stalking or Free Speech: Florida Man Arrested For Allegedly Yelling Allahu Akbar and Threatening People Outside Synagogue

florida-muslimIf the allegations are true, Diego Chaar is a horrible anti-Semitic person. He is accused to yelling Allahu akbar outside of a synagogue and saying that he would cut the heads off the congregants. Yet, the case presents a potential free speech issue after Chaar is facing charges of stalking and assault.

The incident occurred outside of the Ohev Shalom Synagogue. Two members of the congregation said that they were standing outside the Miami Beach synagogue when Chaar and another man walked by and made the statements. They were followed and Chaar was later arrested.

Chaar converted to Islam two years ago while in prison and police say that he told them “I want to take them to paradise. I don’t want them to burn in hell for the rest of eternity. I feel like that they’re worshipping right now is nothing, it’s fake. It don’t exist, in my opinion.”

Rabbi Phineas Webberman not only head the congregation but is also a police chaplain. He insisted “That’s called assault. Threatening to kill. His attitude was that this is his religious responsibility of carrying out killing infidels.”

The question that is likely to be raised is whether there is true or whether this is a case of free speech. The Florida law is actually written quite broadly:

A person who willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly follows, harasses, or cyberstalks another person commits the offense of stalking, a misdemeanor of the first degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083.
(3) A person who willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly follows, harasses, or cyberstalks another person and makes a credible threat to that person commits the offense of aggravated stalking, a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084.

That however can produce a constitutional conflict if a person’s “harassment” is to yell religious or political views, even violent speech.

Weberman said that “A group of young men were outside in the front area, the front lawn, sitting on the benches, and they were approached by somebody who was screaming, ‘Allahu akbar. I’m gonna cut your heads off.’ He repeated that, and they went and called the police. He used the term that the terrorists used when they killed the infidels, and they threatened to cut their heads off.”

Violent speech is protected under the First Amendment. The Supreme Court has repeatedly held that citizens cannot be prosecuted for their exercise of free speech, even in the case of so-called “violent speech.” See Brandenburg v. Ohio, 395 U.S. 444, 447–48 (1969) (per curiam); see also NAACP v. Claiborne Hardware Co., 458 U.S. 886, 928–29 (1982). The only exception to this rule is found in extreme cases where the speech is akin to “one who falsely shouts fire in a crowded theatre.” Brandenburg, 395 U.S. at 456 (Douglas, J., concurring). In such cases, the Court has stressed that “the constitutional guarantees of free speech and free press do not permit a State to forbid or proscribe advocacy of the use of force or of law violation except where such advocacy is directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action.” Id. at 447. The government must show not only that the defendant both advocated imminent violence, but also that such advocacy was likely to incite or produce such a response. Hess v. Indiana, 414 U.S. 105, 108–109 (1973).

The question is whether this statement passing by a synagogue would satisfy such a high standard. Chaar insists that he never said that he wanted to cut off heads, but even if he did, there would still be a free speech issue in the case.

The statements allegedly made by Chaar are despicable and reprehensible. However, can such comments be criminalized if they were made? One possible angle for prosecutors would be to argue that the comments were directed at two men outside of the synagogue. However, the facts suggest that Chaar did not know the men and was walking by at the time.

What do you think?

54 thoughts on “Stalking or Free Speech: Florida Man Arrested For Allegedly Yelling Allahu Akbar and Threatening People Outside Synagogue”

  1. Ari, It’s Spring Break here @ the beach and lots of white kids playing rap. Mission Beach also attracts a good number of black Spring Breakers. They all get along just fine. San Diego just has a good vibe. Lot’s of Muslims, and other minorities and everyone gets along. It is the only city in the top 10 US cities w/ a Republican mayor. They’ve had Republican mayors for some time except for the short lived Bob “The Pervert” Filner. And, San Diego has by far the lowest murder rate. The highest murder rate victims is Hispanic males, followed by black males.

  2. I wonder what would happen if a Jew walked to a Mosque and threatened the congregants.

  3. For what it is worth, I got in to a heated argument today with a good friend on the subject of those students expelled from UO. Said friend was born just prior to our city burning down. No memory of it. She argued that it is white folks who are always blamed for everything, while jerk rappers are not. My answer is simple, sometimes jerk white people deserve the blame….at a minimum they should know that the rap entertainment genre makes the vast majority of its money from white folks. They don’t want to be seen in the same light as vulgar rappers, don’t play like one.

  4. Trooper York said …

    Thought crimes are the worst crimes.

    Heh heh, good one. It’s a “thought crime” when you express a grotesque idea among confidants, however, in today’s world of cameras and smart phones everywhere, if you think you’re not heard or seen or both, you are behind the times. Run off at the mouth, just pay the price…don’t be a punk is how I see it.

  5. Pogo said …

    That is the same thing Diego Chaar did, isn’t it?

    Very similar. But not exactly. Are you suggesting that the police should arrest the students from Oklahoma?

    As far as I am concerned, in the students’ case, the intervening authority was the University of Oklahoma instead of police…and rightly so. Unlike Chaar, who directly addressed Jews, the little idiots did not sing their chant to a group of black students as far as I know.

    Maybe if they’d done so they’d have gotten their little butts kicked and learned even more about running off at the mouth. That, however, wouldn’t have been a good solution…the University essentially saying your character does not fit what is required to attend here was the correct response.

    That said, I was a “frat” boy in the 60’s and wouldn’t have dreamed of singing out that chant….anywhere. We got enough grief for inviting Jewish students to our parties ( in the days when every frat house had a beer bar) oddly from some other Jewish students….who felt less ecumenical. Those dratted Catholics 🙂 never let it bother them and we pledged them and partied with them….the Italians from NYC were great party animals. Our frat was in danger of removal from campus, as were a couple of others, for bias in pledge recruiting cited in the national charter (in those days, not now) so we made dang sure our local chapter did not represent that bias to the best of our ability. Before you ask, yes we did pledge a brash Jewish guy, a jock, from NYC…his rebellious personality fit right in with us. We didn’t bother to notify the national offices of his religion…or what was then called his “race.”

    Those were strange days, days when standing up counted…and I suppose I am a bit “radical” on the subject…e.g., one is “free” to speak, and they are also “free” to endure the consequences of their speech. Citing hanging black men is not acceptable given the age I grew to maturity within. My parents introduced me to good manners, but the guys on the block reinforced it vigorously. Run off at the mouth, pay the price if offensive. Most everyone got their stuff in order in short order.

  6. The same holds true for Ferguson and other places. When a public protest results in threatening insults, damaging of property, and malicious behavior, it stops being free speech and becomes a crime.

  7. In my opinion it’s free speech until the person(s) starts threatening or is the cause of bringing down our national beliefs and symbols and/or going against Constitutional rights. At that point it becomes a crime.

  8. Aha, I’m blamed for their vote for the problem.

    Apparently Professor Turley would prefer we not discuss the American flag issue at Irvine.

    When I heard this I wondered, what is their complaint, the flag itself is the symbol for a country built by many from all over the world. And isn’t that cultural diversity?

    Then the letter from 60 — SIXTY — professors agreeing with them. Irvine needs to get an American History class.

    Now I’m a Californian, so I have a right to be pissed. These professors are paid with my taxes! And how many of these students are illegal getting aid from California? My taxes!

    Is anyone planning a protest this weekend? It’s two hours away, but I would absolutely go. My taxes are teaching nincompoops, taught by 60 nincompoops, who cannot relate our history to our flag. Go to another country for your education and you won’t see our flag.

    Drive to Westminster and visit Vietnamese who have come here with nothing and created a town with all things Vietnamese. Or go to LA, Korean Town, more people who came with nothing and created a community. Go to NYC and walk along Seventh Avenue and see stores with every spice, special ingredients from all over the world. What other country can say that? Oh, and in Michigan there is a large area of peaceful Muslims making their safe home here.

    They came from Italy, Ireland, Eastern Europe, France, Britain, India. Is there a place in this world people haven’t come from? To the United States of Anerica, where we proudly love our flag and its symbol of this great country!

    UC Irvine owes Californians a huge apology, from the whole student body, for attacking the flag of people paying for their education. And a refund!

  9. Pogo, I didn’t vote for Obama, so don’t fault me. So many lawyers and no problem with Obama ditching the Constitution!

    Reminder: Pelosi went to Syria and met with Assad. The Bush administration requested she not go. So a letter from Senators is worse than her face-to-face? Maybe she said things that got us where we are. We’ll never know.

  10. This is “fire in a theater” speech. Yelling Allah Ahkbar is terrifying to those within hearing distance. In a big crowd someone could start running, then everybody runs, then someone is trampled on and dies. If Oklahoma University can ban a degrading word (which I think is wrong to try) then yelling threatening words should be a no-brainer.

    This is only going to get worse. Does society need to protect its citizens at Synagogues, kosher stores and restaurants? Should areas with a large Jewish populations hire professionals to protect them? Did people in Paris continue to use the Kosher deli or is it out of business?

    What about yelling Allah Ahkbar at a Christian church? Do people have to stop openly showing their faith (yarmulkes, crosses, crossing yourself in public)? Why do people in our government want to take away legally-purchased guns and ammunition when there are outright threats to our way of living? Are there enough police?

    I’m in my home, alarm set. Is this how we live now? We certainly don’t do anything to stop the insanity growing elsewhere? How naive are we to think it won’t happen here? Why are we trusting Iran in any way? They have Christians in jail for being Christians. Why would we want anything to do with a country that kills its gays?

    Is this a wake-up call to America? Is anybody listening?

  11. The stalking statutes require the behavior be done “willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly.”

    Were there other incidents?

  12. “I am delighted the students signing the racist song at SAE fraternity were expelled …with the hanging inference as acceptable.

    That is the same thing Diego Chaar did, isn’t it?

  13. And just to be further clear about what I think….I am delighted the students signing the racist song at SAE fraternity were expelled from the university. They crossed the line, not with the N word, but with the hanging inference as acceptable. Those punks did not live through the 50’s and 60’s and are ignorant…and lack curiosity of just how such chants began is no excuse.

    Long ago I was a member of one of the oldest fraternities in the USA and for along time we had “national charter issues” focused on race and religion. Our local charter chapter did NOT focus on race or religion, and the school had no beef with us.

  14. issac said …

    A threat is free speech-is directed at a group-is directed at specific people-is perhaps a sign of mental instability-is something that needs the attention of our society. That is why we have the law. This guy walks by a group of people he doesn’t like and makes statements to instill fear and anger. That is a provocation that society must meet.

    And it was and is by the legally vested authority…the police….just as in an airport if someone talks about a bomb. Joe Sixpack does not get to make the decision to throw acid or lop off body parts….or use lethal force against words alone.

    As for casual use of a mortar or old Sherman tank, that has been tightly controlled (illegal without an expensive permit that limits where you may keep it, when and where you can move it, and allows almost no use of them) since 1968. I was the “caretaker” for a friend’s 20 mm Lahti Anti-tank rifle (I had secure facilities, he did not)…and as such I had to certify to him so he could to ATF where it was at all times, and that it was locked in a secure case.

    As for the purported “armor piercing bullets” under the scrutiny today…that is 100% hogwash…virtually all hunting bullets, save very few for old black powder rifles, are “armor piercing” using the standards (mainly the lack thereof) these weenie screamers cite. “Green tipped” can mean steel tipped, or just painted that way. The many steel or alloy hunting bullets of today (for the environment…e.g, less lead) can pierce all but the hardened ceramic armor…which is not what ATF & DOJ is citing. They are citing Kevlar vests…if you have better information, please cite it. Otherwise, the attempt is to eliminate almost all bullets designed since 1960….which in my quasi-paranoia, I suspect is the goal. The anti-gun mob never quits finding baloney excuses for more regulation and prohibition. Better they teach safety, then we’d not have kids shooting themselves with Mommy’s pistol, or Mommy offing herself by fiddling with a stupid bra holster….in both cases with pistols that had no manual safety or de-cocker….and trigger pulls similar to my hard ball target Model 1911…e.g., too light a pull for casual carry without a safety.

    I don’t think ceramic armor piercing bullets and rounds are necessary for civilian use…but THAT is NOT what they are talking about. Those 1960’s hard pointed FMJ rounds, both Russian and NATO damn sure penetrated the “armor” of those days…e.g., flak jackets. Often, when airborne in slow moving aircraft (under 200 mph) we’d sit on two folded flak jackets and hope we didn’t get our man gear or poop ejector shot off….Uncle Chuck got very proficient at firing en mass at low flying aircraft, if you know what I mean.

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