Montana 'Hate Speech' Case Won't Be Prosecuted

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The state of Montana reached a deal with one of its citizens in a case that some observers have called a rare "hate speech" prosecution.

The case, which you can read about in more detail here, involved a 29-year-old short order cook named David Lenio, who sent out a series of vitriolic and, possibly, threatening tweets about Jewish people and killing school children. An out-of-state political activist had reported Lenio to the authorities after noticing the disturbing tweets, and a Flathead County prosecutor charged him with two counts: intimidation and defamation.

Montana's defamation statute outlaws any speech that subjects individuals or groups, classes, or associations "to hatred, contempt, ridicule, degradation, or disgrace." The county argued that by making statements such as "The holocaust has been proven a lie," Lenio defamed all Jewish people.

Lenio's public defender challenged the law as overly broad, and the judge agreed, dismissing the case. However, the intimidation charge remained, and Lenio faced up to 10 years in jail if convicted.

Because Lenio lived in a small town with a tiny Jewish population and only a couple of schools, his threats against Jews and school children could be considered targeted and credible, according to the prosecution. But Lenio's public defender, Brent Getty, argued that Lenio's tweets were not directed at anyone in particular and would be the equivalent of "back in colonial days, someone yelling on the street corner."

The question of when speech crosses the line into threats, especially in the age of social media, is a difficult one to answer. And in this case, it will remain unresolved. Lenio accepted a "deferred prosecution" deal, meaning that he will not go to trial or face any other punishment as long as he doesn't violate any other laws and keeps his attorney apprised of his whereabouts for the next two years. You can read the agreement here.

Watch the original video on this case below.

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  1. When he starts twitting out twits about experimenting on Jewish twins is when you have to start getting concerned.

    1. Look, some experiments are worth doing, okay?

  2. If you REALLY want to get in trouble, say something mean to an elected official in a public meeting.

  3. Well, of course somebody who calls for hunting down Jews is going to get a pass.

    [Adjusts tinfoil hat]

  4. I’m glad the charges were dropped, but I really can’t blame people for being legitimately concerned. Particularly when you find out afterwards that he had recently retrieved his guns for storage and was glad the tweets had caused them to increase security around synagogues. Honestly, chances are he does absolutely nothing as I bet, if nothing else, even if did seriously think about doing something he wouldn’t have the guts for it. Again though, if I were Jewish in the area I can’t blame them for being legitimately scared and thankful for the police.

    1. I just really hate that whenever idiots like this guy do this shit, I have to, by association defend his freedom to be stupid to the “hate speech should be banned” idiots.

      1. A’int that the truth.

      2. Not to mention having to rename my band. Who knew that Psychic Dog Talk Radio was taken?

  5. I’m always skeptical when some political celebrity mentions how they received “death threats” when they talked about such and such a topic. How many of those “death threats” have been credible? 1 out of 100,000? 1,000,000? None at all? There should have to be a significant step toward actually achieving an act before it can be considered a threat. It’s such a cheap victimhood claim.

    It’s like that Bill Burr (I think?) bit about having your “identity stolen”. No, some teenager bought an online porn subscription and a crave case.

  6. Has he considered interning for Sheldon Richman?

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