Online Rapper to Face Music for Lyric Threats

     LOS ANGELES (CN) – An aspiring rapper who wrote lyrics aimed at two high school-aged rape victims cannot avoid criminal-threat charges by arguing that his speech was protected, a California appeals court ruled.
     Anthony Murillo had posted links to his song “Moment for Life Remix” on his personal Facebook page. On the track, he laments the imprisonment of his high school friend Shane Villapando, who pleaded guilty to unlawful sex with two Santa Maria classmates.
     According to the court ruling, the two girls were bullied, threatened and harassed so severely after they reported Villapando that they had to change schools.
     In the song, Murillo named the rape victims and rapped “fuck snitches,” “you’re gonna end up dead,” and “I’m coming for your head, bitch.”
     Performing under the name “Lil A,” the white rapper posted a photograph on his website that showed him holding a shotgun.
     The track was downloaded 1,089 times and played 23,468 times before its removal from the online platform Reverbnation in October 2013.
     Authorities charged Murillo with threatening to use force or violence against a crime victim after one of the girls saw the track in her Facebook newsfeed and listened to it.
     Murillo maintained that he did not intend to harm the victims by creating the song. After a magistrate judge dismissed the complaint, prosecutors filed a motion to reinstate it but the Santa Barbara County trial court declined.
     In an eight-page order, a three-judge panel of the Second Appellate District reversed.
     “In our review of the undisputed factual circumstances presented at the preliminary examination, a reasonable listener could have understood ‘Moment for Life Remix’ to constitute a true threat to Jane Does 1 and 2; that is, the song could be understood to convey a serious expression of intent to commit an act of unlawful violence against the girls,” Judge Arthur Gilbert wrote for the panel.
     The victim was “frightened and upset when she listened to and understood the song’s lyrics” and her mother was “sufficiently concerned to contact law enforcement,” the opinion stated.
     “An obvious question in this case is whether an alleged threat directed at specific persons is any less a threat when it is sung or spoken in a recording and played for an audience,” Gilbert wrote. “Does it matter whether the alleged threat is on a work in a museum of modern art? Philosopher and media expert Marshall McLuhan posited that the ‘medium is the message.’ That may be so, but here the trier of fact determines the nature of the message whatever the medium.”
     “For purposes of the preliminary examination, this evidence provides sufficient cause to believe Murillo is guilty of the charged offenses,” the panel, which included judges Kenneth Yegan and Steven Perren, unanimously held.
     The order directs the Santa Barbara Superior Court to grant the state’s motion and return the case to the magistrate court for further proceedings.

%d bloggers like this: