He Heckled a District Attorney on TV. Now He Faces 10 Years Behind Bars.

On Wednesday morning, Joao DePina will walk into a Massachusetts courthouse to learn whether he could face the possibility of spending a decade behind bars.

His alleged crime? Heckling a district attorney from afar during a live press conference.

DePina repeatedly interrupted then-Suffolk County D.A. Rachael Rollins during a November press conference to criticize Rollins’ professional and personal behavior. His shouts were picked up on local news broadcasts, and Rollins paused on several occasions to ask DePina to stop interrupting her attempt to give an update on two cops who had been shot earlier that day. DePina also livestreamed his tirade, during which he criticized Rollins’ nomination to be a U.S. attorney (she was confirmed to the post in December, becoming the first black woman to be U.S. attorney for Massachusetts).

While DePina’s behavior during the press conference was clearly uncivil and rude, prosecutors say it’s also criminal. DePina was charged in November with one count of witness intimidation in connection to his antics at Rollins’ press conference. He could face between 2.5 and 10 years in prison if convicted.

“This is the most grossly unconstitutional thing I have seen in my entire career,” Marc Randazza, a free speech attorney who is representing DePina, tells Reason. “If the First Amendment means anything, Joao walks free.”

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State Passes Bill That Could Jail People for 30 Days for Filming the Police

Frequent readers of the Free Thought Project know that filming the cops is not a crime. Despite this being a widely known provision — held up with multiple court precedents — cops continue to violate the First Amendment protected right of citizens to film the police. Last month, the Arizona House Appropriations Committee approved a bill that would criminalize filming cops on the job, dealing a massive blow to First Amendment rights. And this month, the Senate passed it.

It now moves to Governor Doug Ducey’s desk for signature, where it will become law.

Republican Representative John Kavanaugh, who is a former police officer, is the lead sponsor of the legislation. According to the bill, it is illegal “for a person to knowingly make a video recording of law enforcement activity, including the handling of an emotionally disturbed person, if the person does not have the permission of the law enforcement officer” and is within 8 feet of the cop.

Kavanaugh originally stipulated a 15 foot radius, however it was later amended after multiple objections. But for many, this is still too far.

As Valera Voce, points out, the law also classifies unlawful video recording of law enforcement activity as a petty offense, unless a person fails to comply with a verbal warning of a violation or has been previously convicted of a violation in which case an offense is a class 3 misdemeanor. A class 3 misdemeanor comes with a minimum of 30 days in jail. Finally, the bill explicitly declares that it “does not establish a right, or authorize any person, to make a video recording of a law enforcement officer.”

“It’s crazy thinking about that for a second. The video that led to the criminal conviction of the police officer who killed George Floyd would itself be a criminal act. And that makes no sense whatsoever,” attorney Dan Barr told FOX 10.

“We believe that this bill stacks the deck against the public check on officer misconduct,” Timothy Sparling, a lawyer and legislative advocate for Arizona Attorneys for Criminal Justice, said during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing last week. Sparling argued that the bill leaves too much up to the discretion of the officers. “When officers have such wide discretion to determine, say, what is lawful conduct or what is unlawful conduct on the ground and that is not properly defined … it’s ultimately up to whatever the officer wants it to be,” Sparling said.

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Rabid Democrats Call on Justice Thomas to Recuse Himself From Jan. 6 Cases Because His Wife Exercised Her First Amendment Rights on 2020 Election

Rabid Democrats are now calling on Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas to recuse himself from any cases related to January 6 because his wife Virginia “Ginni” Thomas exercised her First Amendment rights to friends in private texts regarding the 2020 election.

Recall, the January 6 Committee on Thursday leaked Ginni Thomas’ text exchanges with Mark Meadows to the Washington Post as her husband was hospitalized with an infection.

The text messages exchanged between Ginni Thomas and Trump’s former Chief of Staff Mark Meadows are uneventful.

The media however is having a feeding frenzy over Ginni Thomas’ benign text messages that are completely covered by the First Amendment.

Many Democrat lawmakers are now calling on Clarence Thomas to recuse himself from January 6 cases because his wife sent text messages to Mark Meadows encouraging him to fight for Trump and expose the election fraud.

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Elizabeth Warren may face consequences for practicing censorship

Elizabeth Warren, a mediocre law professor who parlayed a fake Native American identity into a gig at Harvard and a seat in the United States Senate, thought that, once in government, she’d try her hand at censorship. When Joseph Mercola and Ronnie Cummins wrote a book about COVID with which Warren disagreed, she used her position as a Senator to try to get Amazon to censor the book. Although Chelsea Green Publishing filed suit in November, people are finally becoming aware of the suit.

I’m always amazed when someone who ought to know the law doesn’t—or feels entitled to ignore it. As a lawyer and a law professor, one would expect Warren to be familiar with the First Amendment. That’s the one that says that “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech.” As government has grown, that principle has been extended to the federal government as a whole, whether it’s an executive agency, Congress, or a politician acting under the color of his or her role in the government. (And of course, to state governments via the Fourteenth Amendment.)

Nevertheless, on September 7, 2021, writing in her capacity as a United States Senator, on official Senate letterhead, Warren sent a very long letter to Andy Jassy, Amazon’s CEO, expressing her concern that Amazon itself was publishing misinformation by allowing Mercola’s and Cummins’s book, The Truth About COVID-19: Exposing the Great Reset, Lockdowns, Vaccine Passports, and the New Normal, to appear on its bestseller list and daring to give it a favorable ranking. After waffling on for pages several pages, and mendaciously claiming the book was “potentially unlawful,” Warren “asked” Amazon to modify the algorithms to destroy the book’s ranking.

Chelsea Green responded in November by suing Warren for violating the First Amendment, although news of that filing only reached the media recently. The lawsuit relies upon Bantam Books, Inc. v. Sullivan, 372 U.S. 58 (1962). Bantam Books involved a newly-created Rhode Island Commission which had the task of educating the public about any written material that could harm the morality of or otherwise corrupt Rhode Island’s young people.

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Twitter’s new CEO Parag Agrawal previously rejected free speech in favor of “healthy public conversation”

In a far-reaching November 2020 interview, Twitter’s new CEO Parag Agrawal, who was the company’s Chief Technology Officer (CTO) at the time, rejected free speech protections that are enshrined in the First Amendment of the US Constitution, wished the company had censored QAnon sooner, and touted the company’s approach of censoring content based on “potential for harm.”

“Our role is not to be bound by the First Amendment, but our role is to serve a healthy public conversation and our moves are reflective of things that we believe lead to a healthier public conversation,” Agrawal said in response to a question about protecting free speech as a core value and the role of the First Amendment.

He added that the company now focuses “less on thinking about free speech, but thinking about how the times have changed.” In this context, Agrawal said the role of Twitter is increasingly moving toward recommendations and “how we direct people’s attention is leading to a healthy public conversation that is most participatory.”

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Kyle Rittenhouse, Project Veritas, and the Inability to Think in Terms of Principles

On Monday night, we produced an in-depth video report examining the FBI’s targeting of O’Keefe and Project Veritas and the dangers it presents (as we do for all of our Rumble videos, the transcript will soon be made available to subscribers here; for now, you can watch the video at the Rumble link or on the player below). One of the primary topics of our report was the authoritarian tactic that is typically used to justify governmental attacks on those who report news and disseminate information: namely, to decree that the target is not a real journalist and therefore has no entitlement to claim the First Amendment guarantee of a free press.

This not-a-real-journalist tactic was and remains the primary theory used by those who justify the ongoing attempt to imprison Julian Assange. In demanding Assange’s prosecution under the Espionage Act, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) wrote in The Wall Street Journal that “Mr. Assange claims to be a journalist and would no doubt rely on the First Amendment to defend his actions.” Yet the five-term Senator insisted: “but he is no journalist: He is an agitator intent on damaging our government, whose policies he happens to disagree with, regardless of who gets hurt.”

This not-a-real-journalist slogan was also the one used by both the CIA and the corporate media against myself and my colleagues in both the Snowden reporting we did in 2013, as well as the failed attempt to criminally prosecute me in 2020 for the year-long Brazil exposés we did: punishing them is not an attack on press freedom because they are not journalists and what they did is not journalism.

What is most striking about this weapon is that — like the campaign to agitate for more censorship — it is led by journalists. It is the corporate media that most aggressively insists that those who are independent, those who are outsiders, those who do not submit to their institutional structures are not real journalists the way they are, and thus are not entitled to the protections of the First Amendment. In order to create a framework to deny Project Veritas’s status as journalists, The New York Times claimed last week that anyone who uses undercover investigations (as Veritas does) is automatically a non-journalist because that entails lying — even though, just two years earlier, the same paper heralded numerous news outlets such as Al Jazeera and Mother Jones for using undercover investigations to accomplish what they called “compelling” reporting.

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Colorado Web Designer Petitions Supreme Court After Being Compelled To Celebrate What She Believes Is Wrong

Lawyers representing a Colorado web designer who was slapped with a gag order in July that forced her to celebrate causes she believes are wrong filed a petition to appeal the case in the U.S. Supreme Court on Friday.

Lorie Smith, the founder of 303 Creative, lost a 2-1 ruling in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit which mandated that she create custom graphics and websites for LGBT customers despite messages that contradict her religious convictions.

“This case involves quintessential free speech and artistic freedom, which the 10th Circuit astonishingly and dangerously cast aside here,” Kristen Waggoner, the general counsel for the First Amendment legal foundation Alliance Defending Freedom, which has taken on Smith’s case, said in a press call with reporters. “The government shouldn’t weaponize the law to force a web designer to speak messages that violate her beliefs.”

The initial case was launched as a pre-enforcement challenge to Colorado’s Anti-Discrimination Act (CADA), the same law weaponized to go after a Denver-area cake artist for refusal to design a custom cake for a same-sex wedding and, more recently, a gender transition. The law prohibits any business that offers public services from discrimination based on race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation. Smith challenged the law after she received an inquiry for a website for a same-sex wedding but did not respond to the order to avoid violating CADA.

The 10th Circuit rejected Smith’s case against CADA, writing that the law “permissibly compels [Lorie Smith’s] speech,” and concluded, “a faith that enriches society in one way might also damage society in [an]other.” Smith was also reprimanded with a gag order that keeps her from placing a note on her page about what sites would be consistent with her convictions.

“I have clients ranging from individuals to small business owners to nonprofit agencies. I have served and continue to serve all people, including those who identify LGBT,” Smith explained to reporters on Friday. “I simply object to being forced to pour my heart, my imagination, and talents into messages that violate my conscience.”

Waggoner said the legal team was optimistic that the Supreme Court would take up Smith’s case, arguing that the 10th Circuit’s decision was broad.

“I would be surprised if not all nine justice are deeply concerned about it,” said Waggoner, who went on to highlight the court’s prior rulings in defense of Masterpiece Cake Shop owner Jack Phillips.

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