Write a poem, go to jail

by Charles Platt

The text of the poem is circulating freely online, so, here it is:

THE SNIPER

As the tyrant enters his cross hairs the breath he takes is deep
His focus is square on the target as he begins to release
A patriot for his people he knows this shot will cost his life
But for his race and their existence it is a small sacrifice

The bullet that he has chambered is one of the purest pride
And the inscription on the casing reads DIE negro DIE
He breathes out as he pulls the trigger releasing all his hate
And a smile appears upon his face as he seals that monkeys fate

The bullet screams toward its mark bringing with it death
And where there was once a face there is nothing left
Two blood covered agents stare in horror and dismay
Looking down toward the ground where their president now lay

Now the screams of one old negro broad pierces thru the air
Setting off panic from every eyewitness that was there
And among all the confusion the hero calmly slips away
Laughing for he knows there will be another negro holiday

By Johnny Spencer

Mr. Spencer is now serving 33 months and will have 3 years of supervision after completing his sentence. (source)

The question in such cases, as I understand it, is whether this was a “credible threat.” Since the poem had been posted two years previously, and nothing happened on that occasion, that alone suggests that it should not have been taken unduly seriously.

The term credible threat means a threat that is “real and immediate, not conjectural or hypothetical.” Kegler v. United States DOJ, 436 F. Supp. 2d 1204, 1212 (D. Wyo. 2006). The poem sounds quite hypothetical to me, containing no details whatsoever of how the threat was supposed to be carried out, when, or where.

Under California law, I find “Credible threat of violence” is a knowing and willful statement or course of conduct that would place a reasonable person in fear for his or her safety…” and I believe other states have similarly worded statutes. Does a gun fantasy on a web site by an obscure white supremacist cause the President of the United States to fear for his safety?

Of course the guy in this case pleaded guilty. Presumably his attorney advised him to do so. The news reports don’t mention a plea bargain, but I’m betting there was one.

12 Responses to Write a poem, go to jail

  1. John Kindley says:

    First they came for the inbred hillbillies, and I said nothing because I was not an inbred hillbilly.

    But seriously, I myself am prone to fantasies about the dissolution of civilization as we know it, and tend to think that such a dissolution is likely to be preceded by a little chaos, not all of which I would necessarily personally approve of morally. Though my fantasies are quite different than those of the author of this poem, his fate makes me reasonably apprehensive that if I were to write a poem or science fiction novel expressing them I’d be likely to suffer a similar fate.

  2. Tim says:

    The title should read, “Write a poem, plead guilty to threatening the President, go to jail.”

    Nothing to see here.

    • Justin T. says:

      How can you identify which President is being threatened from the text of the poem? There is more than one black leader of a country, after all. And who exactly is doing the threatening? If he plead guilty to this, it sounds like he did so because he had a shitty attorney who was afraid to take it to trial and put the government to its proof.

      • Tim says:

        You can identify which president because he admitted that it was referencing President Obama.

        link.

        Also note that he was on parole, had missed a meeting, and failed a drug test. We don’t know if the sentence was enhanced for that or not. Can anyone with mad skillz find the Government’s sentencing memorandum?

        • Mark Bennett says:

          His own sentencing memo suggests an answer to that question. He was at a 14/IV before the sentencing memo, including a 2-point 4A1.1(d) criminal history bump for having been under a criminal justice sentence as well as a 1-point 4A1.1(e) CH bump for committing the offense less than two years after release from imprisonment on another sentence.

          His 33-month sentence was the top end of the 14/IV guideline.

          • Tim says:

            Thanks. But (please, correct me if I’m wrong here–I really don’t know about sentencing) do we know if the judge credited him as a 14/IV or if the judge saw him otherwise?

            • Mark Bennett says:

              Federal judges don’t have to follow the guidelines, so we can’t tell from the sentence what the judge thought the guidelines numbers were.

              We know, however, that the judge gave him 33 months, which is the guidelines maximum for Level 14 in Criminal History Category IV (14/IV).

              In other words, whatever the judge thought the guidelines numbers were, he sentenced Spencer as though they were 14 and IV.

  3. Justin T. says:

    Maybe writing shitty poetry is a federal offense and that’s what he pleaded guilty to.

  4. Mark Bennett says:

    Guilty plea, but no plea agreement. Here is his Sentencing Memorandum.

  5. Clint says:

    Weak. Fuck America, the land of hypocritical freedom.

  6. Charles Platt says:

    Interesting that the “poet” immediately admitted everything and apologized, as soon as the feds showed up at his home. Yet another instance where a trusting individual assumes that if he tells the truth and says he’s sorry, everything will be okay.

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