(CN) – The 9th Circuit upheld the conviction of a man who sent threatening letters containing white powder to Jon Stewart, David Letterman, Nancy Pelosi and other celebrities and political figures.
A jury convicted Chad Castagana of making threats after he mailed 14 letters containing a white powder to comedians Jon Stewart and David Letterman, Viacom executive Sumner Redstone, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, Sen. Charles Schumer and MSNBC political commentator Keith Olbermann in the fall of 2006.
His letter to Stewart read: “Do you remember what happened to that loudmouth Alan Berg back in the 1980s? You should Mr. Jon Stewart — New York City is so full of demagogues, I hope your kind live to see your city destroyed in your lifetime!”
The other letters where similarly threatening and focused on the recipients’ assumed left-wing political views.
The powder in the letters turned out to be a mixture of laundry soap and cleanser. After confessing to having written the letters, Castagana was convicted under a federal law criminalizing false information and hoaxes. He argued that because he has Asperger’s syndrome, he lacked the intent needed for a conviction.
He said the jury should have been instructed that the government needed to prove that he meant for his targets to believe the powder was anthrax. But the district court ruled that Castagana meant to convey false or misleading information, and that was enough for the jury to convict.
A three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit agreed that proof of intent was not necessary for a conviction.
“The government need not prove that Castagana ‘intended’ that his victims could ‘reasonably believe’ his false information or that they could ‘reasonably believe’ that terrorist activity had taken, was taking, or would take place,” Judge William Canby Jr. wrote.
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