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Amicus Brief: Knox v. Pennsylvania

Weighing in on a First Amendment case that could have significant ramifications for online communications and controversial art forms, The Rutherford Institute has come to the defense of a rap artist who was charged with making terrorist threats after posting a rap song critical of police on Facebook and YouTube. Police had been actively monitoring rapper Jamal Knox’s (a.k.a. “Mayhem Mal”) social media presence when they discovered the song titled “F**k the Police” and charged Knox and his rap partner with multiple counts of terroristic threats and witness intimidation. The Rutherford Institute’s amicus brief in Knox v. Pennsylvania, filed in conjunction with The CATO Institute, asks the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case and reject an attempt by government officials to expand the definition of “true threats,” making controversial and unpopular political or artistic expression subject to prosecution and suppression by the government.

“Instead of targeting terrorists engaged in true threats, the government has turned ordinary citizens into potential terrorists, so that if we dare say the wrong thing in a phone call, letter, email or on the internet, especially social media, we end up investigated, charged and possibly jailed,” said constitutional attorney John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute. “This criminalization of free speech, which is exactly what the government’s prosecution of those who say the ‘wrong’ thing using an electronic medium amounts to, is at the heart of every case that wrestles with where the government can draw the line when it comes to expressive speech that is protected as opposed to speech that could be interpreted as connoting a criminal intent.”

Affiliate attorneys Ari Savitzky, Paul Vanderslice, Mark C. Fleming, James Bor-Zale, and Rauvin Johl of Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr assisted The Rutherford Institute and CATO with the arguments.


March 7, 2019 • Rutherford Institute Appeals to SCOTUS on Behalf of Rapper Charged With Terrorism for Sharing Song Critical of Police on Facebook and YouTube

April 25, 2019 • Supreme Court Fails to Protect Controversial Artistic/Political Expression


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