DENVER (CN) – A barrage of violent tweets sent from a Colorado teen to another student in the aftermath of a school shooting were “neither true threats nor fighting words,” the Colorado Court of Appeals ruled.
R.D., a Littleton High School student, took to Twitter to engage a student from Thomas Jefferson High School. The Jefferson teen, A.C., had expressed sympathy for Arapahoe High School after a Dec. 13, 2013, shooting left one student dead.
A.C had also been fighting with a third student from R.D.’s school over tension between the high schools. R.D. quickly jumped in.
The argument escalated, with R.D. tweeting to A.C. statements like “All you fuck niggas will get your ass beat real shit” and “If I see your bitch ass outside of school you’re catching a bullet bitch.”
R.D. also tweeted a photo of a gun with the caption: “This all I’m saying. We don’t want another incident like Arapahoe. My 9 never on vacation.”
In a 12-page opinion penned by Colorado Court of Appeals Judge Robert Hawthorne and issued Dec. 29, the panel concluded that R.D. had not committed the delinquent offense he was charged with in Arapahoe County District Court in 2013. The opinion noted that R.D. hadn’t made real plans to meet with the other student face to face – and neither actually knew who the other was.
“R.D. tweeted ‘you don’t even know me. Mf I don’t even know were [sic] tf your lame bitch ass school is.’ This tweet showed that he did not know A.C. personally and did not know where Thomas Jefferson High School was located,” Hawthorne wrote for the panel.
This demonstrated a lack of “true threats or fighting words” behind R.D.’s inflammatory tweets, the judge said.
“A threat is a statement of purpose or intent to cause injury or harm to the person, property, or rights of another, by committing an unlawful act…a true threat is not merely talk or jest,” Hawthorne wrote.
“R.D. never referred to A.C. by name. He addressed him only by his Twitter username of ‘iTweetYouShutUp.’”
The reversal of R.D.’s conviction, with which Judges John Webb and Anthony Navarro concurred, was also based on the fact that the A.C. didn’t seem threatened or fearful of the tweets when he replied to them.
“When R.D. indicated that he did not know where Thomas Jefferson High School was located, A.C. responded by tweeting the school’s address: ‘3950 S. Holly street. I’ll see u tomorrow fuck boy,’” Hawthorne wrote. “A.C.’s tweets demonstrate that he did not appear threatened by R.D.’s tweets and that he did not take precautionary measures to protect himself from R.D.”