July 7, 2015

The New York Law Journal reported today on the firm's June 30, 2015, motion to vacate the conviction of its client Harold Turner, in light of the United States Supreme Court's decision in Elonis v. United States, No. 13-983, 575 U.S. ___, 2015 WL 2464051 (June 1, 2015). Turner was an internet shock jock who was convicted of threatening three Seventh Circuit judges by posting on his website a commentary sharply criticizing the judges' decision upholding two local gun ordinances. The defendant in Elonis was convicted under a similar threat statute for a series of Facebook postings found to constitute threats to his ex-wife, co-workers, and law enforcement personnel. The Supreme Court reversed Elonis's conviction because the jury had been erroneously instructed that the postings could be threats if a "reasonable person" would find them to be threatening, without regard to whether the defendant subjectively intended them to threatening. The district court in Turner's case gave essentially the same instruction. The motion to vacate argues that the conviction should be set aside for the same reason the Supreme Court reversed Elonis's conviction, namely, because in omitting an essential element of the crime—the requirement of the defendant's criminal intent—the jury instruction allowed Turner to be convicted for conduct that was not criminal. Partners Harvey Stone, Richard Dolan, and Elizabeth Wolstein are handling the case.