Dr. Charles Omole
Many, in response to my Thread (twitter) of Sowore and why I believe his arrest was premature are saying Sowore went too far in his use of the word “RevolutionNow”.
But these folks are giving a basic English interpretation to the word. Words tend to have Legal meanings (and tests) away from its ordinary english meaning which have been well defined by common law. What is a Threat must be distinguished from what is constitutionally protected speech.
One of my Twitter Followers – eekabadcrane – captured this very well when he stated the Legal test based on a famous case:
In Watts v. United States (1969), the Supreme Court held that under the First Amendment only “True Threats” may be punishable.
The Court stated that alleged threats must be viewed in context, and noted that in the “political arena” in particular, language “is often vituperative, abusive, and inexact.” Thus, the Court further held that “political hyperbole” is not a true threat.
Sowore’s #RevolutionNow call appears to be a “political hyperbole” for protest against what he believes are the failings of the Muhammadu Buhari led govt.
The use of the word “revolution” and the context in which he used the word may have been an inexact way of referring to “protest” against his perceived failures of the government.
The SSS should have gathered more information and Intelligence before making an arrest. Rather than arrest first and then begin to scramble for information to support it after.
In Watts; the factors used to separate free speech and true threats became known as the Watts factors.
3 Key factors in separating true threats from free speech
The three factors identified by the Court in Watts are: 1. The context of the statement or statements in question. – Watts spoke in the context of a political event and open political and anti-war activism. He was not part of some secret militant group.
2. The reaction of the recipient or listeners.- In Watts the listeners did not take his words as a threat. Most knew he was just blowing hot air. In fact many laughed at his audacity.
3. Whether the threat was conditional. So when statements are conditional on an action or inaction as condition-precedent such statements may not be classed as legal threats. But of course it depends on the outcome of the previous two tests as well.
Background of Watts case:
In August 1966, an 18-year-old African American war protestor, Robert Watts, attended an anti-war rally at the Washington Monument. During a discussion group designed to discuss the problem of police brutality, Watts allegedly said: “They always holler at us to get an education.
And now I have already received my draft classification as 1-A and I have got to report for my physical this Monday coming. I am not going. If they ever make me carry a rifle the first man I want to get in my sights is L.B.J. . . ”
Lyndon B. Johnson was the President of the United States.
So simply saying I want RevolutionNow does not in itself breach limit to free speech. The three Watts Test Must be passed. This is what I meant in my previous Thread when I stated that Sowore was just blowing hot air.
Nobody I know expected Sowore was going to violently remove the government.
If you follow him during the 2019 Presidential campaign; Sowore kept saying he would win and many times was heard saying in 2018 “When I win next year…”. Also then; nobody I know expected him to win.
He seems to speak in a bullish and braggadocio ways. This contact is important in law; rather than a literal interpretation some seem to be giving his words.
True threats constitute a category of speech that is not protected by Free Speech provision of our constitution.
The Appeal court stated in United States v. Kelner (2d Cir. 1976) that a true threat is a threat that “on its face and in the circumstances in which it is made is so unequivocal, unconditional, immediate, & specific as to the person threatened, as to convey a gravity of purpose and imminent prospect of execution.”
US Supreme Court’s most detailed description of true threats on record is found in Virginia v. Black (2003). From that case, it now seems clear that d speaker must actually intend, through a statement, to instil fear in d recipient.
So who was fearful of Sowore’s rantings so much that it constituted Threat? I know both sides can be argued in Sowore’s case. And I knows there are plenty who disagree; But I respectfully feel he has not crossed the free speech threshold before his arrest.
We tend to copy America in many things governmental. And there has not been sufficient cases at the highest level in these areas to fully develop our Jurisprudence locally. Hence we have to look at other common law jurisdictions for guidance.
The SSS are doing a vital national service and deserves our support. But they must learn to do Intelligence-Led Policing rather than Police-Led Intelligence.
True threats litigation is complicated, hence the need to have iron-clad evidence before making a move.
The SSS should have gathered sufficient evidence such that prosecution will be a straightforward matter instead of the shenanigans we have seen them displayed lately. When you allow politics or sentiment to influence professionalism; you may end up looking unprofessional.
It is not too late to get this silly saga behind them and move forward. We need the SSS firing on all cylinder and avoid this distraction. When you lose public Trust; earning it back will not be easy. We all make mistakes, but let’s now move this nation forward together.