Man Guilty of Threatening Obama on Facebook

By Deanne Katz, Esq. on February 06, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

It's generally a bad idea to make threats on Facebook. But it's an especially poor choice if your target is President Obama, or any president for that matter.

Don't just take our word for it, ask Christopher Castillo. The 28-year old Florida man was convicted on Tuesday for threatening to kill the President in a Facebook post. He could face several years in prison at sentencing.

But what about his free speech rights under the First Amendment? Well, that right, like all others, has limits, and Castillo's actions put him outside its protection.

Shortly before November's election, Christopher Castillo said in a Facebook post that he would "hunt down and kill" President Obama if he was re-elected, and "watch the life disappear from his eyes." That kind of comment got the Secret Service's attention.

When agents questioned Castillo, he told them that given the opportunity, he would at least attempt to beat up the president, according to Jacksonville, Florida's WJXT-TV. Castillo also said he didn't care that it was a violation of federal law.

Here's the thing about free speech: You have a right to say what you think about most things. If you think President Obama's policies are foolish, for example, you have every right to say that as loudly as you wish.

What you can't do is make threats about hurting other people, especially if those people are the president or anyone in the line of presidential succession.

In general, making threats on the Internet is only illegal if the subject of the threats reasonably fears actual harm. But in the case of the president, things are a little different.

It's a federal offense to threaten to harm or kidnap the president, ever, in any public way -- including sending a letter to the White House, or even posting a threat on a website like Facebook.

When it comes to free speech, that's not really much of a burden. Political debate doesn't need to end in threats of violence, and you can express your vehement dislike of any presidential policies without threatening physical harm on our commander in chief.

Castillo will have plenty of time to think about these issues while he's awaiting sentencing. His hearing is scheduled for April 4, according to New York Daily News.

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