Judge dismisses charges against accused Twitter stalker

Offensive tweets protected by US Constitution


A federal judge has dismissed a criminal case against a man charged with stalking a religious leader on Twitter on the grounds that the more than 8,000 messages he posted, some predicting her violent death, were protected by the US constitution.

Thursday's ruling by US District Judge Roger W. Titus of Maryland was among the first to scrutinize a 2006 amendment to a federal anti-stalking law that extended it to the internet and other online forums. The decision dismissed criminal charges against William Lawrence Cassidy, who used multiple Twitter accounts to sharply criticize a religious figure identified only by the initials A.Z.

“Although in bad taste, Mr. Cassidy’s Tweets and Blog posts about A.Z. challenge her character and qualifications as a religious leader,” Titus wrote in the 27-page ruling (PDF). “And, while Mr. Cassidy’s speech may have inflicted substantial emotional distress, the Government’s Indictment here is directed squarely at protected speech: anonymous, uncomfortable Internet speech addressing religious matters.”

The New York Times identified the target of the tweets as Buddhist religious leader Alyce Zeoli. An attorney for Zeoli told the paper her client was “appalled and frightened by the judge’s ruling.”

Attorneys for The Electronic Frontier Foundation, which filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the case, hailed the decision as a victory for free speech online.

“We are grateful that the court recognized the critical First Amendment issues at stake in this case,” Staff Attorney Hanni Fakhoury, said in a statement. “Law enforcement may have disagreed with the tone and content of Mr. Cassidy's speech, but the police hauling a Twitter user to jail for offending a public figure was the greater harm.”

UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh, writing on The Volokh Conspiracy blog, also praised the decision as “a substantial victory for free speech.” ®


Keep Reading

Tech Resources

Apps are Essential, so your WAF must be effective

You can’t run a business today without applications—and because apps are critical to strategic business imperatives and commerce, they have become the prime target for attackers.

Webcast Slide Deck | How backup modernization changes the ransomware game

If the thrill of backing up your data and wondering if you will ever see it again has worn off, start the new year by getting rid of the lingering pain of legacy backup. Bipul Sinha, CEO of the Cloud Data Management Company, Rubrik, and Miguel Zatarain, Director of Global Infrastructure Technology at PACCAR, Fortune 500 manufacturer of trucks and Rubrik customer, are talking to the Reg’s Tim Phillips about how to eliminate the costly, slow and spotty performance of legacy backup, and how to modernize your implementation in 2021 to make your business more resilient.

Three reasons you need a hybrid multicloud

Businesses need their IT teams to operate applications and data in a hybrid environment spanning on-premises private and public clouds. But this poses many challenges, such as managing complex networking, re-architecting applications for the cloud, and managing multiple infrastructure silos. There is a pressing need for a single platform that addresses these challenges - a hybrid multicloud built for the digital innovation era. Just this Regcast to find out: Why hybrid multicloud is the ideal path to accelerate cloud migration.

Top 20 Private Cloud Questions Answered

Download this asset for straight answers to your top private cloud questions.

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2021