5 Months in Jail for Anti-Semitic Tweets: When Does Free Speech Become a Threat?

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Did police avert a mass shooting in the picturesque mountain town of Whitefish, Montana when they apprehended a young man following a string of disturbing social media posts? A handful of citizens and activists believe so.

“We do a lot of hand-wringing and praying and calling for action after school shootings. Here’s a case where, potentially, a school shooting was averted,” says Francine Roston, one of two rabbis living in Montana’s Flathead Valley.

Roston believes she was a potential target of David Lenio, a 29-year-old short-order cook who moved to the area so he could snowboard the slopes. He often camped out in his van and, apparently, liked to use Twitter.

It all began on February 15, 2015, when publicist and political activist Jon Hutson began tweeting in the wake of mass shootings at a Copenhagen cafe and synagogue. Hutson noticed a series of anti-Semitic and conspiratorial tweets directed at him from a user named Psychic Dog Talk Radio. It was Lenio’s account, and once Hutson dug deeper, he found that Lenio had spent the previous few days tweeting about killing Jews and fantasizing about perpetrating school shootings.

“Best way to counter the harm #jewish #policies is causing [sic]is #ChapelHillShooting styling killing of #jews till they get the hint & leave,” read one such tweet. In another, Lenio complains about being a “wage slave” and says he’s “not even opposed to shooting up a random school like that sandy hoax stunt only realer.”

For deeper look at this case, watch the Reason TV video above, and check out Elizabeth Nolan Brown’s previous coverage.

Approximately 7:37. Produced by Zach Weissmueller. Field producers are Paul Detrick and Alex Manning. Music by Chris Zabriskie and Lee Rosevere. Additional photography provided by Greg Lindstrom and the Flathead Beacon.

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