NEW PORT RICHEY, FL - September 2, 2020 - According to an online news report posted on cltampa.com, Newport Richey Police stated that a BLM group had received several threats although the group has not caused any property damage.
A local chapter of the BLM group, BLM Pasco County, told a local news website about the numerous threats sent to the group even though the group has been peaceful and has not caused any property damage.
According to the news report, the threats increased in severity. Some of the threats included following the protestors to their homes and burning their property down. The alleged threats were sent through social media apps, comments, and text messages. One of the threats allegedly came from an account located in Killeen, Texas. At the release of this article, some of the alleged threats were coming from a social media account that could not be linked to a specific person and maybe a bot and not an actual person. The victim stated that the threatening messages included his workplace and urged others to harass the victim.
According to the news report, the victim showed messages that included warnings that armed opposition would show up in large numbers to counter their protests.
Lauren Letona, the Deputy Chief of the New Port Richey Police Department, told the reporters of cltampa.com that the protesters had not caused any damage. She added no way to accurately predict who will attend future protests and that their department would be in attendance to provide safety to all attendees and enforce the law. She also stated that no matter who violates the law, the New Port Richey Police Department would enforce the law. She added that the New Port Richey Police Department would not condone illegal threats or acts of violence against another, and the department investigates all threats seriously. She also added that law enforcement does not choose sides, and law enforcement's job is to protect all citizens' safety and enforce all laws.
Citizens of the United States have the Constitutionally-back right to conduct a protest peacefully. The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution states that "Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble."
In the State of Florida and under Florida Statute Electronic Threats, a Felony Under Florida Statute 836.10, "Written threats to kill or do bodily injury; punishment" is a second-degree felony. If the accused is convicted of a second-degree felony in Florida, he or she could receive up to 15 years in prison, or up to 15 years probation, and up to $10,000 in fines or a combination of the aforementioned penalties. Even if the threats were made anonymously, and there was no intent to follow through with the threat, the act is still a second-degree felony.
When an individual is accused of making threats, the most common types of defenses use to defend the accused include 1) the threat did not include a threat to kill, harm, or cause bodily injury; 2) the threat never happened; 3) the threat was never sent to the victim; 4) the threat was unintentional; 5) the threat is protected speech according to the First Amendment.