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. A threat to do violence is not free speech if directed against a discernible group of people or person in direct proximity to the speaker. It doesn’t matter if he knows the people of not. This was not politcal hyperbole which the court distinguishes as protected speech. Watts v. US.

  2. Close to the topic, if not exactly on topic:

    I am puzzled that the administration and the DOJ took such great sympathetic interest in Michael Brown, with pejorative interest in officer Darren Wilson
    in Ferguson, MO, but made not a single remark, that Ive heard or read anyway, about officer Robert Wilson recently murdered doing his duty while off duty … simply trying to protect the rest of us.

    What is the main difference, image wise, between Michael Brown and Officer Robert Wilson of Philadelphia?

    Answer: The latter was a cop, the former a thug.

    Does our current administration have their values skewed a bit…like flat out cockeyed?

    1. Aridog

      “You don’t need to be a Weatherman to know which way the wind blows”
      Bob Dylan

  3. The Bush White House asked Pelosi not to go. I’m glad she did all those things. But, she was second in line for the Presidency, and made a very troubling target. There is some difference.

    Congress inviting Netanyahu was good for the American people. When he’s been at the White House, comments made afterward were different than his. Iran is now helping ISIS and we should walk away. At the border of Jordan and Iraq there are hundreds of thousands in refugee camps. If ISIS starts moving there we will have to help Jordan. That is absolute.

    There have been several occasions where Democrats have interfered with current policy, with signatures. Fox showed some of these. But if you want to know what they are, do the searching, I’ve already seen them.

    1. Sandi Hemming

      There is more that I have uncovered personally that is baffling and I thank you for leaving the door open for me now. Yemen is Storming the Gates of Saudi Arabia which is supposed to be our ally and Obama does not understand and going over to make kissy face with “The Supreme Leader” also noted that the letter sent by US senators to Iranian officials revealed the collapse of political ethics in the US system.

      Ayatollah Khamenei then underlined that the other parties to the talks, particularly the US, adopt a harsher tone whenever the deadline for reaching

      Seriously?? Could this be the man that Obama is so sure that he can deal with and do business with? and at the same time.

      The rise to power of the Iran-backed Houthis since September has deepened divisions in Yemen’s already complex web of political and religious allegiances, and left it increasingly cut off from the world.

      And we are creative about this:

      The Art of Future Warfare project’s core mission is to cultivate a community of interest in works and ideas arising from the intersection of creativity and expectations about how emerging antagonists, disruptive technologies, and novel warfighting concepts may animate tomorrow’s armed and social conflicts.

      Please join us for a small reception after the event concludes.

  4. 99guspuppet said …

    The solution to most any aggravating action is some kind of return violence…

    Sadly, you are correct all too often. The alternative is to just walk away (unless the deviant is shooting at you)…you cannot cure stupid. In fact, it is stupid to even try. If truly egregious, then your idea is on the money, as I learned long ago “back on the block” … you are entitled to suffer the consequences of being run-off-at-the-mouth stupid.

    I have never needed or wanted “proxies” to act for me…I am responsible for myself and want no interference. I pay taxes to pay police to manage idiots for me…most times they are far more charitable than I would be. I am not one who believes the “man-caused-disaster” theory…a terrorist is a threat and stupid to boot….better authorities mange them, and kill them if need be…not as my proxy but as my paid protectors. That’s not a “proxy” in my purview, since the authorities will be far more benevolent that I would be in many circumstances.

  5. The solution to most any aggravating action is some kind of return violence…. shoot first… ask questions later ( why bother ? ) The ultimate best approach is to get a proxy to act for you … have the police shoot to kill or incarcerate …. America has the sweetest system ….. Whoops …. hope I don’t end up in jail ….. you first !!!!!

  6. Sandi,

    Just in case you’re interested in learning more about Pelosi’s AND DARRELL ISSA’S visit and several other Republican’s (including members of the Bush State Department) visits to Syria in ’07….

    For one thing, Pelosi notified both the White House and the State Department in advance of her trip. She also received a policy briefing from Bush administration officials about developments in Syria, and Pelosi was told that the staff at the U.S. embassy in Damascus would be available if needed.

    In other words, Pelosi honored U.S. protocols and worked with the executive branch instead of trying to circumvent it. Let’s also not forget that the Bush administration was not actively involved in delicate negotiations with Syria at the time.


    * Update: I spoke to Pelosi’s office, and a top aide reminded me that officials from the Bush State Department literally sat in on the meeting between the then-Speaker and Assad. To see this as comparable to the sabotage letter is plainly at odds with the facts.

    Pelosi was also accompanied on the trip by Ohio Republican Rep. David Hobson, along with Democratic Reps. Henry Waxman (D-CA), Tom Lantos (D-CA), Louise Slaughter (D-NY), Nick Rahall (D-WV), and Keith Ellison (D-MN). The Washington Post quoted the Republican congressman stating that he didn’t receive pushback about the visit prior to leaving:

    “Before we left, we met with the State Department people and nobody told us not to go,” Hobson said, adding that none of his Republican colleagues broached the subject, either. “Nobody ever called me to say, ‘Why are you going to Syria with those people?’ ”

    Why, indeed. Especially when a group of Republican lawmakers led by Rep. Frank R. Wolf (Va.) traveled to Syria days before Pelosi’s group.

    “I went to dinner with who asked me,” said Hobson, the only Republican Pelosi invited to join the group. “Frank Wolf didn’t ask me to go to Syria.”

    It is important for lawmakers from both parties to travel together to lend credibility to the trip and present a cohesive message to foreign governments, Hobson said.


    Boehner’s spokesman, Brian Kennedy, said that “there’s no tension or hard feelings there whatsoever.”

    Hobson also told the media that Pelosi “did not engage in any bashing of Bush in any meeting I was in and she did not in any meeting I was in bash the policies as it relates to Syria.”

    The Los Angeles Times noted in 2007 that “Pelosi demonstrated she was eager to implement the advice of a blue-ribbon advisory group that called on the U.S. to open a dialogue with Syria as part of the effort to quell the violence in Iraq. The group — headed by Republican James A. Baker III, who served as secretary of State under Bush’s father, and Democrat Lee H. Hamilton, a former House member from Indiana — issued its report late last year.”

    The Washington Post reported at the time that “Foreign policy experts generally agree that Pelosi’s dealings with Middle East leaders have not strayed far, if at all, from those typical for a congressional trip.”

    The Bush White House strongly criticized Pelosi’s trip since they were trying to isolate Syria at the time. Still, prior to her visit, three Republican congressmen — Robert Aderholt (AL), Joe Pitts (PA), and Frank Wolf (VA) — met with Assad. Following Pelosi’s visit, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) met with President Assad and reportedly criticized the Bush administration after the meeting. The New York Times wrote on April 6, 2007, that there wasn’t “much carping from” the Bush White House about the Republican visits. Assistant Secretary of State Ellen Sauerbrey also held talks in the country prior to Pelosi’s visit.

  7. commoner, Mission Beach is a prime target for a tsunami. It is below sea level in spots.

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