An Obama judge and federal jury have acquitted a New York man who placed a $500 bounty on the heads of ICE agents.
Brandon Ziobrowski, 35, was acquitted after his lawyer argued the comments were constitutionally protected speech under the First Amendment.
Judge Denise Casper, who became the first African-American woman to serve as a district court judge in Massachusetts after she was appointed by Barack Obama, told jurors the main question they faced was if Ziobrowski intended to communicate a viable threat against officials or if the threat could at least be interpreted that way by others.
She noted that a “true threat” does not include “caustic” or “sharp” political attacks, as such comments are protected speech.
Despite authorities saying they considered Ziobrowski’s tweets as a “true threat” against the lives of ICE agents, the New York man was acquitted by the jury.
If convicted, Ziobrowski faced up to five years in prison.
SOLICITATION TO MURDER
Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephanie Siegmann pushed back at Ziobrowski’s defense, saying that the tweet constituted a “true threat” not protected by the First Amendment.
“The defendants words were clear and unambiguous. It put the lives of law enforcement at risk. That is not protected speech. That is a solicitation to commit murder,” Siegmann said.
Siegmann also asserted that Ziobrowski’s tweets were not in any way sarcastic or joking, as claimed to jurors.
When Ziobrowski shared his disparaging tweet last year, Siegmann reminded jurors that the names of ICE agents had publicly been released and Homeland Security officials judged the man’s statements as a credible threat.
In response to the acquittal, U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling said in a press release that they accept the jury’s verdict but maintained that the tweet was a threat to federal officers.
Lelling wrote: “We respect the jury’s verdict. But in this case the defendant posted a tweet that, on its face, offered $500 to anyone who killed a federal agent.”
“In 2019, over 100 law enforcement officers died in the line of duty. The public needs to know that, regardless of today’s verdict, we will never hesitate to prosecute apparent threats against law enforcement officers.”
In addition to the controversial tweet that spawned an investigation, Ziobrowksi replied to a tweet about ICE agents putting their “lives on the line to arrest criminal aliens.”