“These Judges deserve to be killed,” Harold “Hal” Turner said last June on his Web site. He was attacking three federal judges who had upheld Chicago-area bans on handguns, reports the National Law Journal. Next week, he is scheduled to go to trial in Brooklyn, N.Y., in a federal case that will test First Amendment protections online.
The case turns on whether Turner’s postings on his Turner Radio Network site are protected as an exercise of free speech, albeit violently hyperbolic, or constitute a “true threat” that posed imminent danger to the targets. Media lawyers say the case may set new precedent to cover the Internet free-for-all of invective. Turner says: “I am the first editor of a U.S. media outlet to be jailed for an opinion since the Civil War!” As far as the government is concerned, the case doesn’t have anything to do with the First Amendment.