A South Carolina man is accused of threatening the life of Gov. Nikki Haley on Facebook, but he claims he was only making a point about free speech.
When 26-year-old Nathan Shafer heard about the arrests of 19 Occupy Columbia members outside the State House last Wednesday, he did what lots of people do when they get angry – he vented about it on the Internet. He saw Gov. Haley’s Facebook post about the arrests and Haley’s comment that she “appreciate[s] freedom of speech,” and that’s when authorities say Shafer crossed the line.
“I hope someone murders you before I do,” Shafer said he commented on the post. “How’s that for freedom of speech?”
The next day, Shafer says two State Law Enforcement Division agents visited him in Charlotte to discuss the comment. Shafer says he retracted and deleted his statement, promised he wasn’t serious and apologized to the Haley family.
Still, Shafer says SLED agents called him again on Tuesday and told him he’ll be prosecuted for the alleged threat. Shafer turned himself in at noon on Wednesday at the Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center.
“I just think the whole situation is completely ridiculous and blown out of proportion,” Shafer wrote shortly before his arrest.
Threats against public officials are naturally taken very seriously, even when a comment was supposedly made in jest. In July, however, a federal court ruled that a man who posted online statements calling for President Barack Obama’s assassination was merely exercising his free speech rights.
At issue, according to the court, is whether a “reasonable person” would view the statement in question as a genuine threat. In Shafer’s case, that remains to be seen.