PARDALIS & NOHAVICKA CRIMINAL LAW UPDATE:
Disorder In The Court Not Terrorism
In Brooklyn Housing Court, a young father accompanied by a pregnant woman and two young children, appeared before a judge (without a lawyer) asking to overturn another judge’s order. When the judge told him she could not undo another judge’s order, the young man became irate, loud and unruly. He told the judge to tell the other judge “that she will be hung from the highest tree, from a branch of the highest tree, for treason.” He then pointed his hand like a gun at the sitting judge and said “as for you, pop.” The young man was arrested and charged with Making a Terrorist Threat (Penal Law § 490.20) and Criminal Contempt.
In the aftermath of the attack of September 11, 2001, the legislature, finding that “our laws must be strengthened to ensure that terrorists are prosecuted and punished in state courts with appropriate severity”, enacted Article 490 of the Penal Law entitled “Terrorism”. The preamble to that article references several acts of political terrorism as a “serious and deadly problem that disrupts public order.”
Ruling on a motion to dismiss in criminal court, the judge stated as follows: “It is beyond doubt that terrorism poses a significant threat to our peace and security such that crimes intended to coerce a branch of government to change its policy must be prosecuted and punished.” And then the judge stated, “This is not one of those cases.” The “terrorist threat” charge was dismissed. But, the Contempt charge survived because the young man engaged in “disorderly, contemptuous or insolent behavior, committed during the sitting of a court.”
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