A Florida woman has been charged with making death threats against Governor Ron DeSantis, and Senators Marco Rubio and Rick Scott. In a Twitter post, the woman said, “DeSantis, Rick Scott, and Marco Rubio are looting my state. Imma shoot them.” Karen Jones has since been charged with making three death threats against prominent Republican politicians. Jones insisted that she was only joking.
Threatening the President
Section 871 of the federal code makes it a crime to issue a threat of violence against the President, the Vice President, or a President-Elect (or a Vice President-Elect). The maximum penalty for issuing a direct, credible threat to the present is five years in federal prison.
Threatening Any Other Government Official
Threatening other government officials carries a similar penalty. However, an element, at least in federal prosecutions, is that there must be some form of extortion. But, state law also makes it a crime to threaten public officials. However, not only must the threat be actionable, but it must be for the purpose of inducing some outcome. In other words, all prosecutions related to threatening public officials must have some ulterior motive.
Will This Woman be Prosecuted?
In this case, most of whatever happens will be political. The woman clearly did not make a credible threat to shoot and kill three Republicans, but a prosecutor may be inclined to interpret it that way if they are being pressured from on high to continue with the prosecution. It’s fairly clear that if the woman was trying to induce the Republicans to do something, she had no real idea what it was. She made no specific threat that would pressure any of them into performing any task. Further, she probably did not have the means or ability to carry out the threat.
For as much as a prosecutor might want a jury to take this seriously, they just won’t. Nonetheless, the woman is facing three class-2 felonies which carry a maximum of 15 years as a sentence. They are likely trying to scare her into not doing this again, and the charges will probably be dropped because they don’t conform to the requirements of the statute.
The correct crime the woman should have been charged with is simple assault. Assault, contrary to popular belief, is defined by Florida law as issuing a threat. The battery is making good on that threat. Generally, however, the crime of assault requires an “apparent ability” to carry out the threat. In this case, authorities can claim that they had no idea whether the woman was able to carry out the threat, only that she made it. In that case, all the prosecution would need to prove is that the threatened had a “well-founded fear” of the threat. Simple assault is a second-degree misdemeanor.
Talk to a West Palm Beach Criminal Defense Attorney
If you’ve made threats against elected officials, you probably need a West Palm Beach criminal attorney. As you can see, this woman is being way overcharged for the crime she committed. The Skier Law Firm, P.A. has helped several like her protect themselves from overzealous prosecutors. Call today to learn more.