Thursday, July 24, 2008

A Dangerous Precedent

New law: Threats lead to jail time

NASHUA – A man who once claimed to be God has become the first person to be convicted under a new state law lowering the threshold for what can be considered a threat against public officials.

Lower than Nick Levasseur's personal threshold? Eleanor Kjellman's? I'm not sure if that's possible. But, what I am sure of is that, given their past history and shared love for turning law-abiding citizens into would-be felons, these two have got to be absolutely giddy over the dissent-crushing possibilities this "felon factory" of a law will open up for them.

It was always illegal to threaten a public official, but what was in the past generally considered a misdemeanor in most cases was also upgraded under the new law to a Class B felony. The change makes jail time more likely for those convicted of threatening the current and former governors, legislators, judges and a variety of other public officials and their families -- even if the public official has no reasonable fear for his or her safety.

Nope, no slippery slope or potential for prosecutorial abuse here.

Decreased burden of proof requirement for state prosecutors?

Lower threshold of what actions or words will now constitute a "threat"?

Misdemeanor charge upgraded to a felony?

What's not to love?

And, what's to stop an elected official from reporting to the authorities any and all dissenting correspondence received from his or her constituents, claiming, as Levasseur did, that the tone of the letter in question made them feel threatened?

I hear this strategy for dealing with the uppity riff-raff of the peasant class is quite popular among certain Long Island gun-grabber types, as well as those here at home.

I understand the intent behind the law, but there's just way too much gray area here. Where will the line be drawn between legitimate (albeit angry) criticism of the government and actual threats against the same? Who gets to draw that line? Nick Levasseur, Eleanor Kjellman, et al?

Surely, you jest.

"This is a new addition to the criminal code," said Senior Assistant Attorney General Jane Young. "It's a new crime."

It seems the state was running low on criminals (can't have that!), so the legislature decided to do what legislatures do best, make new ones.


Tell me I'm being paranoid here.