Ferguson Facebook case part of larger debate about online threats

Features Associated Press

A Washington state man is to be sentenced Thursday for posting threats on Facebook against a former Ferguson, Missouri, police officer who fatally shot a young black man - a case that is part of a broader legal debate over when social media rants escalate into criminal acts.

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Jaleel Adbul-Jabbaar pleaded guilty on Feb. 2 for posting a threat against Darren Wilson on Facebook. Federal prosecutors said Abdul-Jabbaar posted inflammatory messages after the Aug. 9 killing of Michael Brown.

The federal charge of making an interstate threat carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison, but prosecutors have recommended Abdul-Jabbaar be sentenced to time served - two months.

The popularity of social media has left lawyers arguing over what constitutes a "true threat" - one not protected by the First Amendment.