A judge refused Tuesday to dismiss criminal charges against a Detroit man accused of making Facebook threats against white Detroit police officers.
Southfield attorney Leon Weiss sought to have the case against his client Nheru Litttleton tossed out of court, saying the threats were not real and that Littleton’s speech was protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
“However offensive, none come close to constituting a true threat,” Weiss said Tuesday during a motion hearing before Judge Vonda Evans of Wayne County Circuit Court. “In this country we are protected by (the First Amendment) ... even the most vile and offensive speech.”
But assistant Michigan attorney general Greg Townsend sees it differently.
“These threats are very specific,” said Townsend. “He’s attacking police officers, specifically white police officers.”
Littleton allegedly posted statements online that included “kill all white cops” last summer during a vacation to Puerto Rico with his family.
Evans said the posts caused a “ripple effect,” creating fear in police that they could be targeted.
“True threats wound by their very utterance,” the judge said.
Evans set a June 5 trial date.
Weiss said he would appeal Evans’ ruling to the Michigan Court of Appeals. Evans denied Weiss’ request for an emergency stay.
The case centers around the issue of whether Littleton’s anti-police comments on Facebook are protected from prosecution under the free speech rights contained in the First Amendment.
Michigan prosecutors have argued it doesn’t matter whether Littleton intended to carry out the alleged threats or not because police could perceive the statements as endangering them.
Littleton, a 40-year-old Ford Rouge Plant worker, is accused of delivering a terrorist threat while using a computer to commit a crime. Both offenses are 20-year felonies.
Littleton allegedly posted the controversial remarks last July while in the Waldorf-Astoria El Conquistador in Puerto Rico. The comments were posted following the ambush shooting of five Dallas police officers who were shot to death.
Detroit Police requested that charges against Littleton be filed by the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office, but Prosecutor Kym Worthy declined, saying she didn’t believe a crime had been committed.
Two months after Worthy’s decision, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette brought terrorist charges against Littleton.
Littleton allegedly wrote on Facebook: “F them racist __cops!!! Kill them ALL. Black Lives Matter. Black Lives Matter. Black people should start killing all white cops just like they are killing us!!!
“Then and only then will this __stop. Why you ask? Because white people will be dropping like flies!!!,” Littleton is accused of writing.
Weiss has called the posts “hyperbole.”
The ACLU of Michigan has filed a brief in the case ,saying Littleton was “traumatized” after seeing news reports about police officers shooting African-Americans.
ACLU of Michigan deputy legal director Daniel S. Korobkin said Tuesday “there was no evidence” Littleton planned to make good on the Facebook posts.
“It’s political hyperbole,” said Korobkin. “It was emotionally charged speech.”
Weiss added Littleton was just “blowing off steam” while he was drunk.
Evans has ordered house arrest for Littleton, only allowing him out for work and Alcohol Anonymous meetings. The judge told him to make sure he attends the meetings, telling him his alcohol abuse “is what got you here today. That liquor cost you a lot of money and it may cost you your liberty.”
Littleton must wear a GPS and alcohol-monitoring tether while he remains out on bond awaiting trial.