The Justice Department issued subpoenas against the libertarian site Reason.com seeking to learn the identity of anonymous site users who discussed killing federal judges, Buzzfeed reported.
The comments in question were posted in the thread for a May 31 Reason story concerning Ross Ulbrich, who created the Silk Road online drug marketplace, and a letter he sent to Judge Katherine Forrest asking for leniency following his conviction.
Instead, Forrest sentenced Ulbrich to life in prison. USA Today reported that Ulbrich plans to file an appeal.
The subpoena, originally published by blogger Ken "Popehat" White, argued that the department is investigating whether they constitute violations of federal laws against interstate threats.
The document specifically highlights comments including, "It's judges like these that should be taken out back and shot," and "Why waste ammunition? Wood chippers get the message across clearly. Especially if you feed them in feet first." Another user calls Forrest a "c*nt." More of the comments can be seen below:
AgammamonI5.31.15 @ lO:47AMltt
Its judges like these that should be taken out back and shot.
AlanI5.31.15 @ 12:09PMltt
It's judges like these that will be taken out back and shot.
croakerI6.1.15 @ 11:06AMltt
Why waste ammunition? Wood chippers get the message across clearly. Especially if you
feed them in feet first.
Cloudbusterl6.l.15 @ 2:40PMIIt
Why do it out back? Shoot them out front, on the steps of the courthouse.
Rhywunl5.3l.15 @ 11:35AMIIt
I hope there is a special place in hell reserved for that horrible woman.
AlanI5.31.15 @ 12:11PMIIt
Product PlacementI5.31.15 @ 1:22PMIIt
I'd prefer a hellish place on Earth be reserved for her as well.
croakerl6.l.15 @ 11:09AMIIt
Fuck that. I don't want to oay for that cunt's food, housing, and medical. Send her through
the wood chipper.
While the department has not commented on its move against Reason, legal experts have already criticized the subpoena.
"In terms of the comments, everybody knows that Internet is a forum where exaggeration and hyperbole take place," said Kimberly Chow, who works with the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. "These comments are in that category. Nobody believes that these people are going to go and put this judge in a wood chipper."
George Mason University law professor Ilya Somin, who has contributed articles to Reason.com in the past, wrote in the Washington Post that using a grand jury to weed out internet "trolls" was "ill-advised."
"To put it mildly, comments such as these are hardly valuable contributions to public discourse," Somin argued. "But if federal prosecutors investigated every similar anonymous comment on the internet, we could probably devote the entire federal budget to hunting down these types of blogosphere trolls, and still not find them all."