DENVER (CN) – The 10th Circuit upheld charges Tuesday against a man convicted of threatening an Oklahoma judge and the Tulsa Police Department.
Jeffrey Stevens, of East Lyme, Connecticut, sent 10 messages to the Tulsa Police Department in September 2016 after a video went viral of Tulsa police officer Betty Shelby shooting and killing an unarmed black man on the side of the road.
In messages sent through the Tulsa Police Department’s online citizen complaints program, Stevens addressed the police chief and officers as well as the judge and prosecutor presiding over Shelby’s case.
“The basic right to Life, Liberty & the Pursuit of Happiness for Citizens is greater than the ego of psychotic, racist shits who were mistakenly given a badge & a gun,” Stevens wrote on Sept. 22. “If killing every last one of you and your families ....... your wives .... your children is what it takes to drive that point home, so be it. You ARE NOT GODS”
In another message, sent Sept. 20, Stevens wrote, “unless the Prosecutor & the Judge deny bail, they too will be executed. America is NOT a Police State in which any mental defective owning a badge can murder at will. It’s time for America to make a stand and it will. Do the right thing or die. There are no other choices.”
FBI agents traced the messages to Stevens’ home where he confessed to sending them.
In court, he pleaded guilty to five of 10 counts of interstate communication with intent to injure on the condition that he could appeal the ruling. On behalf of his client, Federal Public Defender Barry Derryberry questioned whether anyone felt truly threatened by Stevens’ messages.
Both the trial court and, on Tuesday, the 10th Circuit concluded that most reasonable people would construe Stevens’ statements as threatening.
"The sole issue on appeal is whether the district court erred in concluding that a rational jury could find Mr. Stevens’ statements to be true threats under the reasonable person standard,” U.S. Circuit Judge Scott Matheson Jr. wrote for the panel. “We conclude it did not."
Stevens is serving a year-long prison sentence that will end in June.
Public Defender Barry Derryberry said there is the possibility of appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court, if Stevens wishes to pursue overturning the conviction and his three years of supervised release.
U.S. Attorney Trent Shores could not be reached for comment by press time.
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