News Law and Policy

More Domestic Violence Charges for Man in Supreme Court Facebook Threats Case

Jessica Mason Pieklo

Anthony Elonis served time for stalking and threatening women online and then brought a lawsuit claiming his actions were protected free speech. He now faces charges he struck a woman in the head during an argument.

While the U.S. Supreme Court considers whether violent, misogynist online threats are constitutionally protected free speech, the man at the center of that case faces new charges of domestic violence.

Anthony Elonis was convicted in 2011 under federal law for posting a series of threatening messages against his former wife and other women on his Facebook page. The messages escalated from threats Elonis would shoot up an elementary school to fantasizing about killing his wife and law enforcement officers. Elonis defended his statements, claiming they never amounted to “true threats” of violence and were instead rap lyrics he was working on.

His case made it all the way to the Roberts Court, which has yet to rule of whether or not these kind of statements count as hate speech.

Elonis now faces new charges of domestic violence. Elonis was at his girlfriend’s mother’s home last week when an argument broke out and Elonis hit the mother in the head, according to reports. Police arrested Elonis and charged him with domestic violence-related simple assault and harassment.

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This latest arrest is not Elonis’ only legal problem. In connection with his 2011 conviction, Elonis served 44 months in prison and was ordered to serve an additional three years of supervised release that began with Elonis’ release from prison in 2013. Federal probation officers in November filed a request to modify the terms of Elonis’ release to bar any contact with prosecutors or FBI agents.

The probation officers claimed that Elonis, while still in prison, had sent a letter in April 2013 to Assistant U.S. Attorney Sherri A. Stephan. Elonis identified himself by name in the letter. He told Stephan that his release from prison was rapidly approaching and he was researching the ordinances in the municipality where Stephan resides.

“I simply do not wish to run afoul of any of them when I set fire to a cross in your yard. :-p,” Elonis allegedly wrote, referencing a Supreme Court decision that held a Virginia law criminalizing cross burning unconstitutional.

The Roberts Court will rule on Elonis’ Facebook threats case by the end of June.

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