Judge Sets $1 Million Bail for Facebook Death Threats

By Deanne Katz, Esq. on September 21, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Eric Yee was arrested after making some statements on ESPN's website that were construed as death threats. A judge set his bail at $1 million.

Making threats can get you in legal trouble, especially in today's climate where there is concern about cyber bulling and online comments turning into physical violence. While First Amendment rights apply to the Internet, that right doesn't extend to statements that are likely to lead to violence.

It's not completely surprising that Yee was arrested after making threatening comments. It's the amount of bail and the actual charges against him that are surprising.

Bail is the amount a suspect must pay to be released from jail prior to their hearing. The Eighth Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishment also prohibits excessive bail.

The amount must be proportional to the crime and the person's likelihood of attending the hearing.

The more serious the crime the suspect is accused of committing the higher the amount of bail. It can also be raised if the prosecution can show that the suspect is a flight risk.

The bail is returned when the case is concluded so paying is an incentive for the suspect to show up in court. If they skip their court date they forfeit the money.

Yee has no prior record and up until recently was enrolled as a student at Yale, according to the Seattle Times. The statements that got him in trouble were made on an ESPN post about new sneakers named after LeBron James that would cost $270 a pair.

Several other posters made comments about how children might get killed trying to get a pair of the shoes. Yee allegedly made a statement that he was looking at children and wouldn't mind killing them, authorities told the Associated Press.

But after his arrest Yee was only charged by prosecutors with one count of possessing illegal firearms. He was living in his parents' house where police found two unregistered guns. His charges don't include anything related to the alleged threats.

The typical bail for that kind of charge is not anywhere close to what was given to Yee. Bail for murder is generally around $1 million while for terrorist threats the presumed bail is around $50,000, the Electronic Frontier Foundation told reporters.

At a hearing prosecutors dropped the bail amount to $100,000, according to the Associated Press. Still, the high bail indicates either more facts than they're letting out or an over-zealous, and potentially unconstitutional, prosecutorial move.

Yee hasn't yet been charged for the threats, only the weapons charge, which also raises eyebrows about the prosecutors are trying to do. His arraignment is scheduled for October 16.

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