Was Rap Song a Criminal Threat Against PA Police?

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The Pennsylvania Supreme Court will review the conviction of a Pittsburgh man for making threats against police in a rap song after he was charged with drug offenses, the Associated Press reports. Jamal Knox argues his song, which was briefly posted online, is protected by the right to free speech. Knox wants the court to set aside his convictions for witness intimidation and making terror threats. “Just because a police officer arrests you, doesn’t mean you are stripped of any free speech ability to say, ‘Wait a minute, that officer did me wrong, and here’s why I think so,'” said Knox’s lawyer, Patrick Nightingale.

The Allegheny County district attorney’s office says the song “was not mere political hyperbole but, rather, the sort of ‘true threat’ that is not protected by the First Amendment.” The case began with an  2012 traffic stop when Knox, now 22, drove away after telling an officer he did not have a valid driver’s license. After a chase, police found 15 bags of heroin and $1,500 on Knox and a stolen, loaded gun. Seven months later, an officer came across the video online. The title is a vulgar three-word phrase that ends, “the Police.” Knox’ lawyers say his objective in creating the “political hyperbole-laced” song was not to intimidate the police officers. Rather, they said, he was trying to engage in therapy for anger management, to express political speech in protest of social injustice, to spread news to the community, and to advance his artistic career.

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