The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday threw out the conviction of a Pennsylvania man found guilty of making threatening statements on Facebook to his estranged wife, law enforcement officers and others.
The court ruled on an 8-1 vote in favor of Anthony Elonis, who served prison time for posting a series of statements on the social media site in 2010 after his wife left him. Seven justices voted to throw out his conviction, while Justice Samuel Alito said he would have sent the case back to the appeals court for it to decide.
Elonis’ Facebook posts, written in the form of rap lyrics, talked about killing his wife, knifing an female FBI agent and shooting schoolchildren. After a court granted his wife a protective order against him, Elonis posted: “Is it thick enough to stop a bullet?”
The justices ruled that in order to prosecute Elonis, it was not sufficient that a reasonable person would have interpreted the remarks as threatening but rather that Elonis had to have intended the words as threats.