Could Shoe-Throwing At Head Of State Face Prosecution In U.S.?


Muntadar al-Zaida, the Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at George W. Bush, will stand trial Dec. 31 for “aggression against a foreign head of state.” If a U.S. reporter flung his footwear at Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, would he do time? Possibly, says The U.S. Code offers special protection for “foreign officials, official guests, and internationally protected persons.” Whoever “assaults, strikes, wounds, imprisons, or offers violence” against one of these people can be fined, imprisoned for up to three years, or both. “Assault” covers not only the attempt to inflict harm but also placing someone under the reasonable apprehension of harm, so shoe-throwing might count.

If jurors decided that throwing a shoe (and missing) didn’t quite rise to the level of assault, they might find the perpetrator guilty of coercing or harassing a foreign official or obstructing the official in the performance of his duties. These lesser offenses carry a sentence of not more than six months in prison or a fine. Tossing Nikes or Bruno Maglis at the U.S. president, vice president, or president-elect on American soil is an even riskier proposition. If a jury were to treat the action as an assault, the perp could get up to 10 years. If the attack were deemed a mere “threat,” then he’d face up to five years.


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