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9th Circuit: Inmate's letter to Bush wasn't true threat

By The Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO — A federal appeals court has overturned an inmate's conviction for writing a crude, rambling letter endorsing President Bush's death at the hands of terrorists — two weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.

The letter from Oregon State Penitentiary prisoner Jonathan J. Lincoln, who was charged with threatening the president and given an 18-month sentence last year, read, in part: "You will die too George W Bush real Soon they Promised That you would Long Live Bin Laden."

Corrections officials intercepted the letter; Lincoln had been serving a 46-month sentence for robbery.

A unanimous three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the letter was protected under the First Amendment, calling it "Lincoln's crude and offensive method of stating a political opposition to the president." The court noted in its April 8 ruling USA v. Lincoln that "such political hyperbole does not constitute a 'threat.'"

The decision reversed a ruling by U.S. District Judge James A. Redden, who tried the case without a jury. Redden ruled the letter constituted a "true threat" when combined with statements Lincoln made six months earlier to a Secret Service agent that he wanted to assassinate the president.

Lincoln's attorney, Michael Levine, said his client was mentally disabled. He was released from prison last month and lives in a Portland, Ore., halfway house.

Frank Noonan, the Justice Department attorney who prosecuted Lincoln, did not immediately return calls for comment.


Sentence upheld for man who threatened president

8th Circuit affirms Richard Humphreys' repeated 'burning Bush' statements constituted threat to kill or harm. 12.23.03

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Sue Niederer, whose son was killed in Iraq, was arrested last week during GOP campaign rally when she interrupted first lady's speech. 09.23.04

Secret Service investigates 7th-grader's violent essay
Assigned to describe his perfect day, unidentified Rhode Island boy writes about harming president, killing Oprah Winfrey, attacking others. 02.04.06

Elderly man's letter to the editor prompts Secret Service visit
Agents question 81-year-old frequent letter writer for nearly an hour before deeming him safe. 01.22.07

Ind. grad student convicted of threatening to kill Bush
Federal jury finds Vikram Buddhi's online postings were true threats, not protected speech. 06.29.07

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