An Oak Creek High School teacher who allegedly praised the actions of the Columbine School shooters and threatened local teachers on a Web site blog was arrested Thursday. The 46-year-old Cudahy man was arrested with the assistance of Oak Creek and Cudahy police departments after West Bend police were notified of a threatening post on Nov. 16.Unlawful use of computerized communication systems? Are you wondering about the scope of that crime (in case you might want to rein in your comments around here)? It's part of the law against stalking, here. (Wisconsin statute, § 947.0125 — scroll down to "Unlawful use of computerized communication systems"). It's not limited to threats of violence. It even covers a person who "[w]ith intent to frighten, intimidate, threaten or abuse another person, sends a message on an electronic mail or other computerized communication system with the reasonable expectation that the person will receive the message and in that message uses any obscene, lewd or profane language or suggests any lewd or lascivious act." That's a tad overbroad. It's a Class B forfeiture if someone "[w]ith intent solely to harass another person, sends repeated messages to the person on an electronic mail or other computerized communication system." Apparently, repeating yourself is a crime around these parts.
The actual blog [sic, blog comment], posted at 6:50 p.m. and provided in a release by the West Bend Police Department, states: “Looking at those teacher salary numbers in West Bend made me sick. $60,000 for a part time job were you ‘work’ maybe 5 hours per day and sit in the teachers lounge and smoke the rest of the time. Thanks God we won on the referendum. But whining here doesn't stop the problem. We've got to get in back of the kids who have had enough of lazy, no good teachers and are fighting back. Kids like Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold members of the Young Republicans club at Columbine. They knew how to deal with the overpaid teacher union thugs. One shot at a time! Too bad the liberals rip them; they were heroes and should be remembered that way.”
The man, who admitted to posting the message, was arrested and a search warrant was served at his home. He is in custody at the Washington County Jail and charges of disorderly conduct and unlawful use of computerized communication systems will be referred to the Washington County District Attorney’s office. The Cudahy man has no previous arrest record that the police department is aware of, according to a statement.
The man who was arrested did not even direct his message at a target. He merely posted an overheated political statement saying that a certain sort of person — not even named individuals — ought to be shot.
Now, another angle here is that the blogger — Owen of Boots & Sabers — provided the police with the IP address of the commenter. The police contacted him after someone saw the comment and filed a complaint, and Owen "assumed that [the police] would find him, chew him out a bit for being an idiot, and leave it alone."
At first blush, I think [the arrest is] a gross overreaction for a comment left on a blog. Yes, the comment was idiotic and over the top, but it hardly constitutes a direct threat to anyone. It was explained to me that it was not believed that the commenter had any intent to harm anyone, but that the mere presence of a comment appearing to condone such violence had to be punished because it might encourage someone else to engage in violence against schools....Oh, no! It would be funny, except that it's not at all funny. The guy doesn't deserve to be arrested.
It appears to me that the commenter is attempting to do one of two things. Option 1: the commenter is a right wing whack job that isn’t violent, but likes to engage in outlandish rhetoric. Option 2: the commenter is a liberal who is trying to discredit conservatives by acting like option 1.
As you can see from the story, the commenter is actually a union teacher from Oak Creek, but it gets more interesting than that. The commenter was also once the president of his local teachers’ union. This leads me to believe that Option 2 is the truth. This commenter is just a liberal union teacher who was trying to make conservatives look bad by pretending to be one and acting like an imbecile.
In a later post, Owen considers whether he should have voluntarily turned over the IP address and decides that he feels "no obligation whatsoever to protect commenters’ information from law enforcement," and he, understandably, is averse to having some stupid comment on his blog draw him into a problem with the police. But do you think, considering how much this law burdens free speech, that we ought to say no when we think there is no credible threat or serious harassment aimed at a particular individual? I'm not knocking Owen for what he did, because he was caught off guard and, it seems, somewhat intimidated by the police himself.