Freedom of Speech Does Not Permit Making Threats of Violence against the President

A Utah man is facing decades behind bars for repeatedly making threats of violence against the President, something not considered a right under the Freedom of Speech Clause.

Threatening the President

Photo by: Dave Newman

33 year old Travis Luke Dominguez of Midvale, Utah was arrested after calling 911 on numerous occasions and threatening the life of President Trump. Although there is no evidence reportedly linking Dominguez’s threats of violence to any substantial danger as he is known for blowing smoke, he was arrested and tried in federal court for using his words to make threats of violence against the President.

Threats of violence

Utah Code 76-5-107 notes that making threats of violence is illegal if accompanied with “a show of immediate force or violence” or while “act[ing] with intent to place a person in fear of imminent serious bodily injury . . . or death”. If someone threatens another and acts with intent or violence, is a class B misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail. Making a threat against the President however, regardless or any accompanying action is considered a class E felony and punishable by up to five years in federal prison according to 18 U.S. Code § 871.

Freedom of (most) speech

Hateful talk towards POTUS is typical nowadays with many voicing their distaste orally or through social media accounts with vicious flare. While sharing negative opinions about the president is a constitutionally given right to any American citizen, knowingly and willfully sending threatening mail or “otherwise mak[ing] any such threat against the President . . . “ is crossing the line. This law that has been adopted into the United States legal system stems from the English Treason Act of 1351 which made it a crime to plan or “imagine” death to a member of the Royal Family. While the Puritans freed themselves from English rule, they somehow chose to keep a law placing an elected citizen on a pedestal much like the King or Queen’s with special contradictions in place to override constitutional rights of the everyday citizens. Residents of the United States are encouraged to choose their free speech carefully when speaking of individuals in high places to avoid criminal charges.

Utah Women Arrested for Attempting to Traffic Meth over Southern Utah Border

Two separate incidents within a single week of December have ended in officers arresting multiple women for attempting to traffic meth over the southern Utah border near St. George.

I-15 drug corridor

Photo by: Nancy

I-15 is known as a drug corridor which is evident in two similar cases that happened south of St. George, Utah last month. In one incident, 43 year old Tara Evans of Annabella Utah was stopped for traffic violations in Mesquite Nevada, located about 30 miles south of the Utah border. A search of the vehicle Evans was driving turned up over four ounces of methamphetamine. Although she was only in possession of around four ounces of methamphetamine, she was charged by Nevada law as trafficking a controlled substance. This could be due to her admitting she brought the drugs with her over the border or the charging officer assuming that was the case.

Drug run to Nevada

In another incident that same week, two women from southern Utah were arrested shortly after passing through Mesquite Nevada and crossing back over the border into Utah. A search of that vehicle occupied by 30 year old Ashley Marie Harmer and 21 year old Mackenzie Lee Clark turned up multiple large wrapped packages of methamphetamine along with other instruments used to sell the substance. Harmer and Clark admitted to traveling to Nevada to obtain the drugs to transport back into the state of Utah.

Drug charges in two states

All three women are facing felony drug charges. Evans was arrested in Nevada and faces felony charges for drug trafficking there. Harmer and Clark were arrested in Utah for possession of meth with the intent to distribute. Since Clark is a first time offender, she faces third degree felony charges while Harmer faces first degree charges since this is not her first rodeo with drug trafficking and distribution. While all three women are facing charges in the state they were arrested in, it is possible they could face federal drug trafficking charges as well since they crossed over state lines while in possession of a controlled substance. Whether facing state or federal penalties, anyone facing drug charges are encouraged to refrain from admitting anything to authorities and seeking appropriate legal counsel immediately.

“Double Jeopardy” is Constitutional in a Dual Sovereignty Case

A trio of southern Utah residents are being charged twice for the same crime, otherwise known as double jeopardy, but since the charges stem from a dual sovereignty case it is considered constitutional.

Custody battle ends in murder

Photo by: Joe Gratz

Photo by: Joe Gratz

After years of custody battles between 30 year old David Heisler and 32 year old Kelley Marie Perry, Heisler was awarded sole custody of their 6 year old daughter Mariah. Less than two weeks later, prosecutors state Perry drove to Heisler’s residence with her friends 56 year old Francis (Frank) Lee McCard and 54 year old Tammy Renee Freeman. When Heisler answered the door, Perry and McCard physically assaulted him, dragged him from his house, then the trio drove him in his own vehicle to the Arizona desert where his lifeless body was discovered eight weeks later.

Utah, Arizona, and the Federal Government

Perry, McCard, and Freeman have been charged in Utah on felony kidnapping, theft, and burglary charges. Since the crime began in Utah and ended in Arizona, it is considered a dual sovereignty case. So not only do the three face charges in Utah, but the state of Arizona has filed their own charges including a repeated charge of felony kidnapping as well as first degree murder which could carry the death penalty. Not only are Utah and Arizona involved, McCard has been federally indicted and an indictment is pending for Perry as well. This means they may face even more repeated charges but at a federal level to boot.

Dual sovereignty case is not double jeopardy

dual sovereignty

Photo by: Ron Cogswell

While a dual sovereignty case may seem like a way to be repeatedly prosecuted for the same crime (double jeopardy), it does not violate a person’s Fifth Amendment rights to not “be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb”. This is due to what is known as dual sovereignty doctrine, meaning that more than one state or court has authority over the case. Although occasionally one state or court will give up their jurisdiction as long as the defendant is facing charges somewhere. This is not always the case though and it is important to know when dual sovereignty may take place. Dual sovereignty due to a multi-jurisdictional case can occur for a few different reasons. Those can include:

• When the crime occurs in more than one state. For example, the David Heisler murder which took place in both Utah and Arizona. This is also a common for crimes such as drug and sex trafficking.

• If there are civil and criminal charges, as they are not handled by different courts.

• When there are both state and federal charges. Both the state and the federal government can press charges in some cases. When this happens, the federal charges do not dissolve the charges from the state. This can result in someone serving time in federal prison followed by state prison or vice versa.

• If the crime occurred in a different state from whence the defendant or victim resides. This is a common occurrence with crimes involving identity theft such as fraud.

• If more than one federal court has filed charges against the defendant.

Defense lawyer(s) needed

When it comes to a dual sovereignty case, a person facing charges needs more help than usual. It is important to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney who can work to help eliminate dual sovereignty in a case or who is willing and able to operate across state lines or work side by side with legal representation in other states or federal courts where other or repeated charges may exist. Anyone facing charges that may involve more than one state or court should speak with a defense attorney immediately.