In a case involving a planned and then abandoned shooting spree at the 2008 Super Bowl, a federal appeals court ruled Monday that the would-be shooter’s manifesto – mailed to the media – was not criminal because it was not personal.
A federal appeals court Monday reversed the conviction of a man who mailed copies of an angry “manifesto” to news organizations moments before driving to the 2008 Super Bowl with a loaded assault rifle to kill as many people as possible.
Local police did not charge him with a crime, since he’d only contemplated the massacre.
But federal agents retrieved copies of his mailed manifesto and charged Mr. Havelock with using the US Postal Service to mail threatening letters.
He was convicted at trial and sentenced to a year in prison.
The court said the federal statute requires that any threatening communication be addressed to a specific person. Since Havelock’s “manifesto” was addressed only generally to organizations or businesses, the charges against him must be dismissed, the appeals court said.
Federal prosecutors had argued for a broad interpretation of the federal law. In the package Havelock sent to news organizations, he wrote: “It will be swift and bloody. I will sacrifice your children upon the altar of your excess.”
He also wrote: “I will slay your children. I will shed the blood of the innocent.”
The question in the appeal was whether these statements were specific enough to trigger criminal liability for Havelock. While the statements were threatening in a general way, they were apparently not directed at any particular named parent.