Florida: State appeals court makes key ruling in Facebook gay hate case
A state appeals court in Florida has ruled that posting homophobic threats on someone’s Facebook page can lead to prosecution under state law.
It is believed to be the first legal ruling of its kind in the state.
On Monday, Florida’s 1st District Court of Appeal decided in a criminal case that a Facebook post could be considered a “sending” for the purposes of “threatening to kill or do bodily harm,” – classified as a second-degree felony – a serious crime.
The language at issue was in a status message that the defendant, Timothy Ryan O’Leary, had posted on his Facebook page in 2011 about a female relative and her same-sex partner.
According to the Associated Press, O’Leary said, in part, that he would “tear the concrete up with (her) face and drag (her) back to (her) doorstep.” He added: “You were born a woman and you better stay one.”
The defendant argued he couldn’t be charged because he did not “send” the threatening language to his relative.
However, a Duval County circuit judge denied his request to dismiss the charges.
After the state dropped one of two counts, O’Leary pleaded no contest to the remaining count. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison, followed by five years of probation. The probation requirement was later reduced to two years.