A Washington state man who pleaded guilty to making online death threats will not face additional prison time for menacing Facebook posts directed at a Missouri police officer who killed an unarmed black teenager, a federal judge ruled on Thursday.
Jaleel Tariq Abdul-Jabbaar, 46, of the Seattle suburb of Kirkland was sentenced to time served, or about two months, in a plea deal with the federal government, according to a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Washington.
Abdul-Jabbaar was arrested in December on three counts of making interstate threats and had faced up to five years in prison.
Federal prosecutors said he used Facebook to publicly threaten violence against police, specifically Darren Wilson, the white Ferguson, Missouri, police officer who fatally shot unarmed black teenager Michael Brown last August. The incident set off nights of rioting and a national discussion of race and police authority.
“We the oppressed people need to kill this white cop,” one post read.
Federal prosecutors said Abdul-Jabbaar’s threats went beyond protected free speech and were meant to intimidate and silence debate.
His public defender said he had no intention or ability to carry out the threats and was unaware his posts were viewable to the public, court records show.
The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to issue a ruling in coming months about whether to uphold the conviction of a Pennsylvania man found guilty of threatening to kill his wife in rants and rap lyrics posted on Facebook.
In that case, the court is weighing whether Anthony Elonis’ social media statements were protected under the First Amendment or whether the violent language represented a “true threat” to his spouse, as well as whether a reasonable person would regard his comments as threatening.
(Reporting by Victoria Cavaliere; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Bill Trott)