Connections: The Randy Ross case - credible threat or free speech?

Mar 6, 2018

In the wake of the Parkland school shooting, police and prosecutors are trying to determine what constitutes a credible threat. In a video posted to YouTube called "School Shooter," a local rapper insulted police and referred to recent mass casualty events. Now he's facing a legal battle and a potential long prison sentence.

But many local attorneys argue that police and prosecutors are overstepping, and infringing on protected speech. Who's right? Our guests:

  • Mark Foti, chair of the Monroe County Bar Association Criminal Justice Section, and former public defender
  • Chris Thomas, partner with Nixon Peabody
  • David Andreatta, columnist for the Democrat & Chronicle

Please note, the Greece Police Department sent this statement to WXXI News: 

From Chief Patrick Phelan:

"While I would love to discuss this matter it would be inappropriate to have a discussion of this nature regarding a case that is pending prosecution.  I will say that I am very confident that this arrest is appropriate and that the facts of the case support the charge. The first amendment protects speech but it does not protect all speech.  You cannot yell "fire" in a crowded movie house.

I encourage you to read the statute , Making a terroristic threat New York State Penal Law Section 490.20.  The only relevant question is If the defendants actions meet the requirements of the statute. All other matters are moot.

Not only as a public official, but as the parent of a student sitting in a Greece Central School District classroom at the time I viewed that video I felt very concerned for the safety and well being of the students in the district.  I felt that the songs lyrics were a direct, specific threat to commit an act of gun violence in a Greece school.  I am 100% confident that the defendant committed the crime of Making a terroristic threat and I am hopeful that he will be convicted of the full charge and sentenced accordingly."