West Virginia Man Arrested For Posting Call for Police To Be Killed

Matthew-Furby-03102016There is a controversial arrest in Elkview, West Virginia where Matthew Lane Furby, 26, was arrested after posting a video on Facebook allegedly calling for police officers to be killed.  The police say that they were alerted to a video where Furby said “the only good cops out there are dead cops.” However, the anti-police comments raise questions over protected speech under the first amendment.  He has been charged with making threats of terroristic acts.

Kanawha Sheriff’s Office says that Furby admitted that he made the video because he was angry with law enforcement officers.  Okay, but that does not mean that it is not protected speech.

He also allegedly spit on police officers and is charged with assault. He was fitted a “spit mask” during his arraignment in Kanawha Magistrate Court 

Some of the comments are clearly offensive and hateful.  The post states: “Kill em all first, especially before they kill you while your hands are in the air saying don’t shoot I’m unarmed.”  He is also shown telling viewers that “the only good cops out there are dead cops. Everyone load up and be prepared to go to war because if we don’t take a stand now they’ll kill us all. Rise up, fight for your guns and don’t take no sh–. Don’t hesitate to fire because they won’t hesitate to fire on you.” He added that police “rape women while they’re handcuffed. Kill every one you see.”

Once again, I find Furby’s comments highly disturbing and reprehensible.  However, I have long been a critic of criminalizing speech.  If we allow the police to arrest people for anti-police rhetoric, it is hard to see where the line will be drawn by the government.  The result is a standard that is impermissibly vague and ambiguous.  Such standards create a chilling effect on free speech as citizens question what speech will be deemed criminal and what speech is deemed simply controversial or offensive.

What do you think?

50 thoughts on “West Virginia Man Arrested For Posting Call for Police To Be Killed”

  1. His “threats” were ambiguous and not particularized.
    Not directed at any person, nor directed to anyone or to any place or time in particular, so his speech is rhetorical venting, expressing his vehement hatred for a group or class of people.
    If he shouted, kill all Blacks, or kill all Jews, or kill all Muslims, that would be protected speech.
    Shouting Kill all police, to no one in particular, about no one in particular, is not an articulable incitement to violence.

  2. Paul,

    Yes. He is attempting to incite violence. But that alone is still protected. As mentioned above, the incitement must be intended and likely to cause imminent lawless action.

    Not all violence is lawless (e.g. self defense and defense of others). Otherwise, we could indict virtually all police instructors who teach “kill them before they kill you.” Moreover, just how likely and imminent is any lawless action this nut is encouraging?

    I’m thinking not very.

    1. Fiver,

      I believe his pronouncement is intended to cause violence, and given recent events and the current atmosphere, there is a likelihood he could inspire some lunatic. Sorry if you find it harsh, but he needs to be locked up.

  3. I’m not seeing any threats here – at least in the language quoted in Prof. Turley’s article. The accused doesn’t say he’s going to commit violence himself. Rather, he’s encouraging others to do so (i.e. incitement instead of threat).

    For incitement to be unprotected by the First Amendment, it must be intended to and likely to cause imminent lawless action Brandenburg v. Ohio, 395 U.S. 444 (1969).

    I’m not seeing that here. Much of the incitement seems to be cast loosely in terms of self defense and defense of others.

    1. fiver – I think you make good points, however he does incite to violence. I think it is close enough to take to a grand jury.

  4. Good. This isn’t just “anti-police speech”. It is overt incitement to violence, as he explicitly calls on people to shoot police officers. Given recent incidents in Dallas, Baton Rouge, and elsewhere, there is a genuine possibility that someone could act on this freak’s calls to arms.

    Attempts to portray calls to terrorism as “free speech” make a mockery of the First Amendment and play into the hands of those who really want to limit free speech.

  5. I think he needs a good Lawyer. I think he needs a good Constitutional Lawyer. He also needs to talk to a lawyer since we do not offer counseling for these problems. A good lawyer is the best mental health expert you can get. Lawyers tell you what you did wrong, where you made mistakes, what the law is and how to avoid the problem in the future. Problem is the working people fighting these battles are just trying to feed their families or survive. I have listened to the best Lawyers in the US for years telling US about free speech with our Government. The time has come to insist that if the Police are going to take life with indifference, that angers people. Most have only experienced over zealous Militarized Police who have been abused from past encounters with Police. If Lawyers dont step up, talk to kids like this and help the working people fight tyranny and the oncoming Police State, they are just baiting kids who took our Constitution to heart, with out all the Amendments.

  6. Is it ever appropriate/right to initiate violence on another human being? I think not. All violence is by its very nature the violation of anothers’ rights. Anytime ones’ rights are violated, violence has occurred. Wearing a badge and uniform doesn’t vest one with the right to commit violence. Neither do majorities by democratic processes vest anyone with authority to violate the rights of others by legal machinations called law.

    The following clip explains when it is logically, although not practically, appropriate to shoot a cop.

  7. “West Virginia Man Arrested For Posting Call for Police To Be Killed”

    I would have guessed that!

  8. I could go either way on this one. It is a close enough call to take to a grand jury. The spitting is assault.

  9. This just in from Cloud 9, Trump emailed and twittered this set of song lyrics last night after the speeches. He said that the first sentence is true.

    I went home with the waitress, the way I always do
    How was I to know, she was with the Russians, too?
    I was gambling in Havana, I took a little risk
    Send lawyers, guns and money, dad, get me out of this

    I’m the innocent bystander
    Somehow I got stuck between the rock and a hard place
    And I’m down on my luck, yes I’m down on my luck
    Well I’m down on my luck

    All right, send lawyers, guns and money
    Send lawyers, guns and money
    Send lawyers, guns and money
    Send lawyers, guns and money
    Yeah, yeah, yeah
    — Warren Zevon

    Trump says that he helped Zevon create this song in years past. He says he may not need the money.

  10. This is a tough one. It seems close enough to the line that the right call may be to say that the jury gets to decide whether the necessary bad intent was present to support a conviction.

    That is the intellectual answer.

    The emotional answer is “Hang ’em. “

  11. There is no distinct line between yelling ‘fire’ in a crowded theatre and ‘free’ speech. The society of the moment must determine which side of the line this mutt is on. Incitement to kill police officers, or anyone for that matter, especially in the present climate, removes any freedoms this mutt might be given by legal theorists regarding his instructions. This is not a case of being politically correct. This is a case of someone who is unbalanced and dangerous. Let’s ask Wayne the Peter if he should still keep his second amendment rights.

  12. Trump said: the first thing we will do is round up the police.
    But, I was not a cop, so I did not say anything.
    Then he said, lets go after the Friggin Mexicans.
    But I was not a Friggin one so I did not say anything.
    Then he said : Let Putin round up all the Hillary emails.
    But I did not object because I was not an email.
    And, when they came for me: there was no one left to object.
    And no one said anything.

  13. I might also add that the demeanor of a person can be used as evidence as to whether or not the speech uttered is a credible threat. The accused here allegedly spit on LEOs and is also charged with assault. While simply spitting on someone does not automatically equate that they are murderous in desire it does serve as additional evidence in whether a threat is credible.

    Also, those requiring spit masks are some of the more unhinged of inmates or suspects, especially those who require this restraint when at a court proceeding and as such is very rare indeed even among those charged with serious crimes.

  14. Offensive speech, without more, should be protected. Not that it matters legally, but is this guy really someone who could influence others? I would like to know how many people, other than the cops, follow his Facebook postings. I think he’s just some ignorant hick trying to get attention, and it worked.

  15. This is hard, but if you substitute some other groups for the cops, does it make it any easier:

    Jews, blacks, abortion doctors, law professors, jet pilots, girl reporters, . . .

    Whoa! That last one got my attention! Arrest the rascal and let the judge sort it out!

    Squeeky Fromm
    Girl Reporter

  16. Here is what I believe to be the state law charged:


    I don’t know what WV considers to be constituting a threat, especially if it involves encouraging others to performed the guilty act which from the quotations listed in this article it seems not to be a direct threat.

    If that is considered sufficient to establish the element of a threat then according to the WV statute I agree this type of speech will constitute probable cause to arrest the defendant on a purely statutory interpretation. I do not have the time to research if the common law tempers this PC so I will have to defer to others.

    The case is on the fence in many ways as to whether or not it is protected speech and as such I can see it as a good case for appellate review.

Comments are closed.