Is it a crime for a person merely to talk about a crime that someone else committed?
Apparently, Connecticut police believe it’s it is. According to this story in the AP, Francis Laskowski was arrested after he stated that he understood why Omar Thornton snapped and killed nine people at his employer Tuesday.
Connecticut police say they arrested a man at a management company after he mentioned the shooting rampage across the state that killed nine people and said he understood the killer’s mindset.
Laskowski told The Associated Press on Friday that his comments were blown out of proportion. He says his arrest was “ridiculous” and he didn’t make any threats.
The relevant Connecticut law under which Laskowski was charged appears to be this one:
§ 53a-181. Breach of the peace: Class B misdemeanor.
(a) A person is guilty of breach of the peace when, with intent to cause inconvenience, annoyance or alarm, or recklessly creating a risk thereof, he:
(1) Engages in fighting or in violent, tumultuous or threatening behavior in a public place; or
(2) assaults or strikes another; or
(3) threatens to commit any crime against another person or his property; or
(4) publicly exhibits, distributes, posts up or advertises any offensive, indecent or abusive matter concerning any person; or
(5) in a public place, uses abusive or obscene language or makes an obscene gesture; or
(6) creates a public and hazardous or physically offensive condition by any act which he is not licensed or privileged to do.
(b) Breach of the peace is a class B misdemeanor.
Presumably, the police acted under (a)(3) by interpreting his statement as a threat. However, it’s possible the charge was a true thought crime and under (a)(4), if his charge was based largely on the idea that it was, as the statute says, “offensive, indecent or abusive” in language.
I cannot come to a full conclusion without hearing the Officers’ justification for the arrest and charge, however unless Laskowski used specifically threatening language (i.e., “I’m going to do to you what Omar Thornton did”) than this is a clear violation of free speech.