Just to name a few…
Believe it or not, good ‘ol Polk County Florida has arrested and sentenced a man to jail for speaking his mind and expressing his First Amendment rights! Or, to put it in the terms of a close (and beautiful) public defender friend of mine, “WTF? This is ridiculous – punishment for ‘bad thoughts.’ Jesus.” Gotta love her!
Antavio Johnson’s song, “Kill Me A Cop,” was posted on the Myspace.com page of an unofficial record label in February. It was online for about two weeks before a Polk County gang detective discovered it and began investigating, according to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office. Johnson’s friends and family say he was frustrated with the Lakeland police a few years ago when he recorded a violent rap song that called officers by name and threatened to shoot them. Those words, they say, were meant only as a creative outlet and not intended to be made public or acted out.
Last month, Antavio Johnson pleaded no contest to two counts of corruption by threat of public servant in exchange for two years in prison.
Needless to say, the case has disturbed the minds of First Amendment advocates everywhere. My close friend, and First Amendment guru, Larry Walters didn’t think the lyrics were reason enough to charge and convict Johnson.
“Wanting to kill cops is not a prosecutable offense,” Walters said, adding that the lyrics made conditional threats and were not made directly to the officers named. “Even if this would cross the line, this is a song. We live in a free country.”
The ACLU has chimed in as well.
“We don’t punish for bad thoughts in America,” said Howard Simon, executive director of the Florida chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union. “Our Constitution forces us to make a distinction between ugly and hostile thoughts and words, and credible threats of violence.”
The Polk County sheriff’s detective found Johnson’s rap song, Kill Me a Cop, on the Internet social networking site. Johnson’s lyrics were a rant against the Lakeland Police Department, mentioning the jailing of one of his friends.
“Im’ma kill me a cop one day,” he raps, “cause I’m tired of ’em playin’ with my life.”
The song mentions an officer by name, saying, “Get my timing wrong, Im’ma be puttin’ one in his dome.” And in another verse, it repeats those words with the name of a female SWAT officer. (Source)
In my research on this case, I discovered that famed rapper Ice-T wrote a song called Cop Killer back in 1990, which was distributed by a major record label. In that song, Ice-T mentioned the LA Chief of Police and the killing of LA Police Officers. (source). But he was never arrested (although Warner Bros. declined to distribute the song on the feature CD). And as we all know, Ice-T went on to much success in Hollywood.