Tuesday, May 31, 2005

US v. Cassel

No. 03-10683 (5-24-05). Defendant owned a parcel of land that adjoined BLM land. BLM decided to sell its parcels. When bidders came to inspect the parcel, defendant met them with "an incredibly ugly dog," that was "aggressive" because it had been hit by a car, and told the prospective bidders that the site was a toxic dump, that murderers and child molesters lived nearby, that witches were present, and that bad things would happen should they live there. Unsurprisingly, the bidders generally shied away. The gov't charged and convicted defendant of interfering a federal land sale under 18 USC 1860 (interfering with a land sale ) and witness tampering. The 9th vacated and remanded because interfering with a land sale required the speech that threatened to have been intended. That is, there must be specific intent and the jury instructions here failed to state that element, and it wasn't harmless. The 9th did uphold the statute against a constitutionally vague challenge and for protected speech. The 9th found that not all speech, especially threats, are protected, and this statute was not vague.


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