I love living in Florida, 'cause I rarely have to use my imagination when I ask "what if..."
So here's a scenario for you: A 20-year-old Lakeland, FL, man, a wannabe rapper, posts a song called "Kill Me a Cop" on the MySpace page of a "homemade" record label operated by an acquaintance. The song mentions two active duty Lakeland cops by name, along with a local sheriff's deputy and police dog who were killed in the line of duty. A gang unit officer from Lakeland, trawling the Web, comes across the song and begins investigating. A short time later, the man, Antavio Johnson, already in jail on a probation violation, is criminally charged with "corruption by threat of public servant" . He later pleads no contest. He is now serving a 2-year prison term on that plea, because the actions that constituted "corruption by threat" were his posting for public consumption a song, whose lyrics pointedly said that he fantacized about killing police officers.
Setting aside whatever distaste you have for rap tunes in general, and saving for a later date the deep discussion of Johnson's intellect, what do you think of the charges and conviction?
I have lots of cop friends. I have cop relatives. I have cop professional associates. And I think it's despicable for anyone to target cops for violence. There's no excuse for it. On the other hand, giving cops special consideration isn't necessary. We could substitute "cops" for teachers, reporters, homemakers, preachers, women, kids, men with one leg, women with no arms, etc. And it would still be despicable to target that group with murder.
BUT (you had to know that was coming), what if I told you this young man's friends and family say that he wrote that song several years ago around the time he was 16 or 17, after a run-in with a couple of Lakeland cops, whom he felt had picked on him? Reportedly, it was the same two officers he named in the song lyrics. But I haven't confirmed that. Would that revelation strengthen or weaken your position?
My immediate reaction to hearing this story was this guy sounds like a dumbass, who needed to get smacked "upside his head," as my grandmother would say. But I'm not sure what he did warrants two years in jail.
His friends and family could be lying to try to help get him out of this. But if they're telling the truth about this, Johnson has had a pretty long time to try to act on the song if he wanted to.
I find everything about this distasteful, but I think Johnson was just an idiot who was venting. Surely, he isn't the first artist who has written and/or performed words that constituted a threat. What about singers who've bragged in lyrics about their drug use, or about sexual exploits whose descriptions sometimes sound dangerously close to assault?
I've heard politicians make physical threats against other politicians - threats they later said were jokes or venting of pent-up anger - on radio shows that are broadcast to hundreds of thousands of people. Why weren't they charged.
Constitutional experts are saying that the Johnson was a knucklehead but that saying he wanted to kill cops in a very bad song was not enough to charge him with a crime.
I'm guessing this only went as far as it did, becaus he mentioned real cops by name. Had he kept his threat vague and broadly generalized, I'll bet he'd still be an unknown wannabe, instead of an incarcerated wannabe.