SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A federal appeals court on Tuesday overturned the conviction of a man who posted Internet messages threatening Barack Obama during his 2008 presidential campaign.
A divided three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Walter Bagdasarian's violent and racist screeds against Obama were "repugnant" but not criminal. The court also said it was obvious the San Diego man wasn't planning to attack the candidate and that the postings were protected by Bagdasarian's free speech rights.
Bagdasarian was convicted in 2009 of two felony counts of threatening a major presidential candidate.
Bagdasarian posted several messages to a Yahoo Finance message board in October 2008, including one that called Obama a racial epithet and another that said "he will have a 50 cal in the head soon" — a reference to a .50 caliber gun.
A retired Air Force officer forwarded the postings to the Secret Service. Yahoo provided Bagdasarian's subscriber information to investigators, who raided his house and seized six guns and a hard drive containing an email with similar sentiments.
Bagdasarian admitted posting the messages, but said he was drunk and joking.
He waived his right to a jury trial. District Judge Marilyn L. Huff found him guilty and sentenced him to 60-days in a half-way home.
But the appeals panel said no "reasonable person" could have taken seriously Bagdasarian's posts.
"The evidence is not sufficient to support a conclusion that a reasonable person who read the postings within or without the relevant context would have understood either to mean that Bagdasarian threatened to injure or kill the presidential candidate," Circuit Judge Stephen Reinhardt wrote for the majority.
Circuit Judge Kim Wardlaw dissented, noting that Bagsasarian owned a .50 caliber gun.
"That Mr. Bagdasarian later made a public apology does not detract from his intent at the time; his intent to threaten harm to candidate Obama generated fear for the candidate's safety and mobilized the Secret Service, which tracked Mr. Bagdasarian down," Wardlaw wrote. "Mr. Bagdasarian did not come forward; the Secret Service had to locate him."
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.
The Encinitas Planning Commission on Thursday will vote on the next phase of a contentious project meant to improve access to Beacon’s Beach.
Comic-Con International, again expected to draw a wide array of fans of the popular arts, conducts its annual preview night at the San Diego Convention Center Wednesday night.
Goat yoga may be all the rage, but the San Diego Humane Society is giving people the change to stretch out with adorable furry critters – cats!
Over 130,000 pop culture devotees will come to San Diego's Gaslamp District for the annual four-day comic book convention Comic-Con, the big, bright and very heavily branded confab of costumed superfans and the corporate sponsors vying for their attention — and dollars.
There is a renewed call for protective barriers along the State Route 56 bike path where, in some sections, only a chain-link fence separates bike riders from freeway traffic.
Some tennis experts say San Diego native, Taylor Fritz is the best hope to be America's next great tennis star.
A citywide wellness program is in the works to offer San Diegans free health-related classes. Dozens of workshops will be held each year at libraries and recreation centers, according to the City of San Diego.
Major traffic is expected to start Wednesday evening as Comic-Con kicks off with preview night in Downtown San Diego. MTS officials are encouraging attendees to use public transportation and got into the SDCC spirit with an homage to the "Stranger Things."
A 28-year-old man died Wednesday after he was found shot in a car in San Diego's University Heights neighborhood, police said.
Dogs can be a man's best friend, but also a criminal's worst nightmare. In Wednesday's Zevely Zone, Jeff is in Miramar at the sheriff's K-9 training academy with the new recruits.