Man loses appeal for threats on Facebook


News Service of Florida

A state appeals court ruled Monday that a man could be prosecuted for posting on Facebook a threat to kill or seriously injure two people.

The 1st District Court of Appeal upheld a Duval County judge’s refusal to dismiss the case against Timothy Ryan O’Leary, who posted a message that threatened a relative and her lesbian partner. Part of the message appeared to target the women because of their sexual orientation, saying, “I’ll tear the concrete up with your face and drag you back to your doorstep,” according to the ruling.

O’Leary argued that the threats were not sent to the victims because they were only posted on his Facebook page. But a three-judge panel rejected that argument.

“There is no logical reason to post comments other than to communicate them to other Facebook users,” the ruling said. “Had [O’Leary] desired to put his thoughts into writing for his own personal contemplation, he could simply have recorded them in a private journal, diary or any other medium that is not accessible by other people.”

O’Leary, 33, was initially charged in 2011 with two counts of making written threats to kill or do great bodily harm. After the judge refused to dismiss the case, O’Leary pleaded no contest to one of the charges and was sentenced to 10 years in prison, but kept the right to continue appealing the denial of the dismissal.

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