A Detroit man will go to trial on terrorism charges for making threatening comments toward police officers on Facebook.
Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette charged Nehru Littleton, 40, with two felonies after he posted last July: “F them racist a white cops!!! Kill them ALL!!! Black Lives Matter!!! Black people should start killing all white cops just like they are killing us!!!”
Schuette announced the charges in October, after Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy declined to prosecute, saying there wasn’t enough evidence.
Littleton wanted the charges dismissed. His lawyers argued the post was too vague to be a “true threat,” and should be considered constitutionally protected free speech.
But Wayne County Judge Vonda Evans says the post caused real fear among police, and ruled the case can proceed to trial.
“The only intent necessary is a defendant’s general intent to communicate a true threat,” Evans said.
“The standard is, would a reasonable person interpret the Facebook post to be serious threats, in light of the full context in which the posts were made, including the reaction of the recipients?”
Evans says it’s a jury’s job to decide the answers to those questions.
Littleton’s attorney, Leon Weiss, plans to appeal. He wants the Michigan Court of Appeals to take up the case on an emergency basis.
Weiss says that no matter how “offensive and deplorable” Littleton’s comments were, they are protected by the First Amendment. He said Littleton wrote the post while drunk on vacation in Puerto Rico.
“He made general threats against police officers who were white. He did it from Puerto Rico,” Weiss said. “The police came to his house, he admitted everything, he apologized, and they could have arrested him on that day. They didn’t, because they didn’t believe he was a threat.”
“There’s absolutely no evidence he ever intended to do anything. It’s political hyperbole,” says the Michigan ACLU’s Dan Korobkin, which filed a brief in support of Littleton. “The real question is whether what he said was a serious and true threat, not really whether people who saw it got disturbed by it and took action.”
Evans set a June trial date for Littleton, but his lawyers hope the case will be postponed by higher courts while Evans’ decision is appealed on constitutional grounds.