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Judge: Racist threats not protected by First Amendment

Alpine man agrees to year-long gun violence restraining order following judge's ruling.
Credit: KFMB

SAN DIEGO — A San Diego judge has ruled the First Amendment does not protect “racial threats, advocacy of violence towards minority groups, vulgar speech [or] speech that promotes killing other minority groups,” in a local gun violence restraining order (GVRO) case filed against an Alpine man.

In the GVRO petition filed on July 30, San Diego police detectives alleged Timothy Caruthers, Jr. made racist and threatening posts in 2020 and 2021 on Instagram and, as a result, he should be banned from owning a firearm for up to five years.

Deputy City Attorney Joshua Kay said the posts included the “N” word and threats to kill black people.

“I want to kill (expletive)s. I want to torture them and beat them to death and watch them gurgle and spit on their own blood,” one post allegedly threatened.

Other posts quoted in court allegedly said, “All (expletive)s need to die”… “I don't know how much longer I can contain my anger” and “I want a race war to start so I can kill Black people,” according to Kay.

Attorneys representing Caruthers, 23, argued the case should be thrown out because Caruthers did not threaten specific individuals, and the remarks were protected under the First Amendment.

San Diego County Superior Court Judge Richard Whitney disagreed and noted Caruthers purchased a Glock handgun around the same time the threats were posted.

“The Court concludes the purchase of a semi-automatic handgun, combined with the evidence of very egregious racial threats… are not considered constitutionally protected speech under the First Amendment,” Whitney wrote in his March 22 minute order.

The judge also ordered the gun violence restraining order case would continue against Caruthers with a hearing set for March 28.

When the hearing convened, however, both parties appeared to have reached a settlement. 

Caruthers’ attorney, Greg Garrison, informed the court of a stipulated continuance to July 2023, pending certain conditions agreed upon by both sides.

The temporary gun violence restraining order will remain in effect against Caruthers until July 29, 2023 -- for a total term of two years since the initial filing -- after which time the entire case will be dismissed, according to statements made in court by attorney Garrison.

The GVRO case against Caruthers originally was filed under partial seal by the San Diego City Attorney’s office, using only the respondent’s initials: TC.

A CBS 8 investigation revealed Caruthers’ full name was filed in a related criminal case, where he pleaded guilty in December to a misdemeanor of carrying a concealed handgun in his vehicle.

The handgun was destroyed as a condition of his guilty plea, and that criminal case eventually could be dismissed at the end of the year per the terms of Caruthers' plea agreement.