Joke About Ebola, Get Charged With Felony Inducing Panic


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Why did Emanuel Smith, 60, of Cleveland, Ohio go to the casino last week? To avoid his Ebola-stricken ex-wife, he allegedly joked. It's not very funny, but nor is the fact that he got hit with a felony charge for inducing panic.

Nevertheless, "police arrested Smith at his home about 9:30 p.m. Wednesday," reports The Plain Dealer. More:

Cleveland Municipal Court Judge Ed Wade set Smith's bond Friday morning during a felony arraignment. Smith is also charged with criminal trespassing, accused of "entering a place of amusement to cause a disturbance," according to the casino commission. Both cases are bound over to common pleas court. …

Commission agents temporarily closed the casino pit where Smith gambled and reported the incident to Cleveland police, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and local health departments.

Smith allegedly cracked the joke the same day "news broke Wednesday that a Dallas nurse diagnosed with Ebola had visited Cleveland." The court set Smith's bond at $10,000.

Smith's attorney Kathleen DeMetz thinks the response is overkill. "People were having a general discussion about the current situation. He made a comment regarding his former wife who had traveled to Africa sometime in the past and that he tries to stay away from her."

There are some reasonable limits on speech. As the old saying goes, you can't shout "fire" in a crowded theater. But does joking about avoiding someone with a disease that has infected only eight Americans fall into this category?

Read about the guy who pulled a prank with a Los Angeles Police Department officer, only to end up in the department's sniper scopes the next day for that prank. 

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22 responses to “Joke About Ebola, Get Charged With Felony Inducing Panic

  1. I hate it when people use that quote wrong,hell,why bother explaining

    1. People also seem to believe that the “fire in a crowded theater” is an actual legal precedent. No one has ever been convicted of anything for shouting “fire” in a crowded theater as far as I know.

      1. Plus it really only applies to the days when film stock was highly flammable. I think it was union agitation when flammable film stock was projected by non-union labor. Safety stock has been used almost exclusively since the 40’s and many theaters today don’t even use film.

  2. Cleveland lets me down one last time.

  3. Wanda Sykes says that she was on a plane and sneezed and everybody gave her the stink-eye. “I’m going back to just being ‘black.’ I don’t want to be African anything.”

      1. Shouldn’t that be “-1 Hyphen”?

        1. Blackrican-American has a hyphen, so probably not.

    1. Would have been funny, but you ruined it by telling me that ass-witch said it. Unfortunately my sense of humor is very ad-hominem.

  4. accused of “entering a place of amusement to cause a disturbance,”

    What if it’s an amusing disturbance?

  5. There are some reasonable limits on speech.

    Oh, fuck off.

    1. Assault, fraud, perjury? I guess you could argue that there are things other than speech going on there as well.

      1. Snark is not a crime

    2. There are limits on speech. There are no limits on free speech.

    3. There are some reasonable limitations on speech. Malicious libel, harassment, death threats et cetera. These aren’t limitations upon freedom of speech however, since your freedom ends where another person’s begins. Thus, only where there are direct and clear victims of that speech can there be grounds to treat that speech as a crime. Just as prosecuting a burglar is not a violation of the burglar’s freedom of travel.

      1. Why make any speech illegal? If people gain a reputation for saying untrue things, people will stop believing them. A free market for speech would regulate itself.

  6. “entering a place of amusement to cause a disturbance”

    It’s almost as if the statute was written with mens rea in mind as a component of this ‘crime’ – are prosecutors actually arguing that he *intended* to cause a panic with the joke?

  7. I read Reason magazine because Salon’s magazines are doused with highly contagious stupidity.

  8. They’re Americans.
    Don’t mention the Ebola.

  9. Is no one capable of asking, “Are you serious?” before jumping to conclusions?

  10. Uh, this seems WAY overboard if it’s only because he said that joke. If the casino called the cops, there must be something else going on.

    1. Maybe he was a up a few thousand and they thought they could get out of settling up?

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