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Appeals court upholds man’s conviction for threatening Muslim candidate

18th Jun 2021

Nadine Osman

A federal appeals court on June 4 upheld the conviction of a 54-year-old North Carolina man who posted an anonymous lynching threat online to a Muslim political candidate from Virginia.

The 4th US Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Joseph Cecil Vandevere’s argument that a threatening tweet he directed at former state Senate candidate Qasim Rashid, 38, contained constitutionally protected speech and didn’t constitute a “true threat.”

The tweet posted on March 13, 2018, included a picture of the infamous 1915 lynching of a Jewish man, Leo Frank, in Georgia and read, ‘View your destiny.’ Rashid posted a screenshot of the threatening tweet and reported it to the FBI. Rashid responded to the tweet by posting a message on Twitter, writing, ‘If extremists think threatening to kill me will slow me down – they’re both violent & ignorant. My faith teaches me to respond to injustice w/justice. We will march forward in service to all humanity.’

Speaking to The Muslim News Rashid said, “I am an immigrant, a US Citizen, and a Muslim American, and I’m grateful the appeals court upheld the conviction against the extremist who threatened to kill me for my faith as a Muslim.

“In the US the First Amendment protects a free exchange of ideas and condemns extremists who incite or threaten violence. This important distinction ensures a peaceful and inclusive society, while protecting citizens from hate and violence.

This is an important model of justice that nations around the world should follow to protect their faith minorities from extremists who seek to harm and threaten them.

“The role of Government should not be to decide what faith or religion is true, or what version of it is true, but to ensure equal justice for all, no matter what. I am grateful I have access to that equal justice here in the United States, as it is something unavailable to me in other parts of the world.”

Vandevere, of Black Mountain, appealed after a jury in Asheville, North Carolina, convicted him in December 2019 of interstate communication of a threat to injure a person. Last June, Cogburn sentenced Vandevere to 10 months in prison.
Vandevere is serving his sentence at a Loretto prison in Pennsylvania, which has a minimum-security satellite camp.

The 4th Circuit panel concluded that Vandevere’s tweet directed at Rashid contained a true threat and therefore wasn’t free speech protected by the First Amendment. “We note first that a reasonable recipient familiar with the context would have felt threatened by the message and would not have construed it as a joke,” the panel’s opinion says.

The judges also noted that Vandevere specifically directed the tweet at a single person, albeit in a public forum, and wasn’t communicated “in a manner to engage anyone in public discourse regarding his political beliefs.”

“Finally, viewing the tweet in the context in which it was received, Vandevere’s statement would indicate to a reasonable recipient that Vandevere had a serious intent to do harm,” the panel added. The judges ruled without holding a hearing for Vandevere’s appeal, saying it wouldn’t have helped them decide the case.

Rashid, a Democrat, lost his November 2019 bid to defeat an incumbent Republican State Senator in Virginia.

One Response to “Appeals court upholds man’s conviction for threatening Muslim candidate”

Leo FrankJune 27, 2021

People should not use the internet to make direct death threats at individuals, especially not using the image of someone who was lynched. Leo Frank was proven with mathematically certainty his guilt but that doesn’t mean he deserved to be lynched. Lynching is wrong. Hopefully this will send a message to others not to make threats over the Internet.

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