Surfing through my Instagram account the other day, I found a picture post that is very appropriate for this case. The post reads, “If you’re having a bad day, just remember someone from your hometown is still trying to become a rapper.” Unfortunately for one Anthony Elonis, not only was he having a bad day, he was also finding his inner rapper under the guise of Tone Dougie.
In Elonis v. U.S., the U.S. Supreme Court tackled whether or not Tone Dougie had to be aware of the threating nature of his communication on Facebook to various individuals. Under 18 U.S.C. §875(c), it is a federal crime to transmit in interstate commerce “any communication containing any threat…to injure the person of another.” I have to hand it to Tone Dougie though; his rap lyrics game was strong enough to put this statute to the test.
Prior to posting threating lyrics, Tone Dougie’s wife of seven years left him and took their two young children. Obviously upset, Tone Dougie took to Facebook to put his thoughts out to this crazy world in hopes others like him could understand his pain. Tone Dougie expressed this anger through his rap lyrics. When Tone Dougie first started posting his rap lyrics, he would post disclaimers with his lyrics stating that his writing was therapeutic. However, over the course of several Facebook posts, Tone Dougie managed to make threats to his co-workers, patrons at his place of employment, his estranged wife, police officers, a kindergarten class, and an FBI agent.
It seems that Tone Dougie’s grand entrance into the rap world started around Halloween, 2010. Being that fun loving crazy rapper, Tone Dougie posted a picture of himself and his co-worker at the Halloween Haunt they were both working. In the picture, Tone Dougie was holding a toy knife against his co-worker’s neck, with the picture caption stating “I wish.” Unbeknownst to Tone Dougie, the Chief of Park Security (yep that is a real job title) viewed this picture post and immediately fired Tone Dougie. I know what you are thinking right now….this so called Chief of Park Security is a real a-hole!
Staying true to his hardcore rapper roots, Tone Dougie laid down some serious poetry against the Chief of Park Security. Tone Dougie slammed him with the following:
“Moles! Didn’t I tell y’all I had several? Y’all sayin’ I had access to keys for all the f***in’ gates. That I have sinister plains for all my friends and must have taken home a couple. Y’all think it’s too dark and foggy to secure your facility from a man as mad as me? You see, even without a paycheck, I’m still the main attraction. Whoever thought the Halloween Haunt could be so f***in’ scary?”
Deep….real deep and troublesome all at the same time.
After threating co-workers and patrons of the amusement park, Tone Dougie set his lyrical talents on his estranged wife. Through his Facebook page, Tone Dougie made some pretty threating remarks about using a mortar launcher to kill his wife. To really show he meant business, Tone Dougie stated that “the best place to fire a mortar launcher at her house would be from the cornfield behind it because of easy access to a getaway road and you’d have a clear line of sight through the sun room….” To drive this mortar launcher theory home, good ole Tone Dougie posted a diagram of his estranged wife’s house! And it was accurate! But to show he is really just a troubled artist, Tone Dougie wrote at the bottom of the post, “Art is about pushing limits. I am willing to go to jail for my Constitutional rights. Are you?” To be honest, I was not completely on board at first about the whole mortar launcher to take out a house, but after Tone Dougie called me out about fighting for my Constitutional rights, I had to take a moment and truly think about what those rights mean to me. You are good sir…you are good.
Moving on, Tone Dougie’s estranged wife was obviously scared and filed for a protection order against Tone Dougie. Not seeing the true artistic talent of Tone Dougie’s poetry and lyrics, the judge ordered a three-year protection order against Tone Dougie. First the Chief of Park Security and now this judge! How these two individuals are missing the whole artistic vibe of therapeutic threats is completely beyond me. But this three-year protection order can’t stop and won’t stop Tone Dougie. Tone Dougie’s responds with the following:
“Fold up your protection from abuse order and put it in your pocket. Is it thick enough to stop a bullet? Try to enforce an Order that was improperly granted in the first place. Me thinks the Judge needs an education on true threat jurisprudence. And prison time’ll add zeros to my settlement…And if worse comes to worse, I’ve got enough explosives to take care of the State Police and the Sheriff’s Department.”
To go from violence, then to talk of money, then to revert back to violence was truly original and something this world has never seen in lyrical poetry.
Feeling the flow of his rap lyrics, Tone Dougie decided to go big and truly let the Facebook world know that he means business with regards to his therapeutic threats. Tone Dougie took center stage and went after an elementary school. So without further ado, I give you the following:
“That’s it, I’ve had about enough. I am checking out and making a name for myself. Enough elementary schools in a ten mile radius to initiate the most heinous school shooting ever imagined. And hell hath no fury like a crazy man in a Kindergarten class. The only question is…which one?”
Okay, a little too soon Tone Dougie. Not cool at all.
Well why this lyrical gem was being posted, that jerk Chief of Park Security ratted out Tone Dougie to both the local police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation! If I ever see this Chief of Park Security, I have the right mind to just push him off his Segway!
So after the post about the school shooting, a FBI Agent shows up to Tone Dougie’s house to discuss the post. According to FBI Records obtained through top secret channels, Tone Dougie was described as polite but uncooperative. So I guess he used please and thank you with the FBI Agents, while at the same time he dodged their questions? Anyways, after the Feds left, Tone Dougie posted a little therapeutic poem entitled “Little Agent Lady.” Let’s take a look at this poem….
“You know your s***’s ridiculous when you have the FBI knockin’ at yo’ door. Little Agent Lady stood so close. Took all the strength I had not to turn the b**** ghost. Pull my knife, flick my wrist, and slit her throat. Leave her bleedin’ from her jugular in the arms of her partner [cue laugh reel]. So the next time you knock, you best be serving a warrant. And bring yo’ SWAT and an explosives expert while you’re at it. Cause little did y’all know, I was strapped wit’ a bomb. Why do you think it took me so long to get dressed with no shoes on? I was jus’ waitin’ for y’all to handcuff me and pat me down. Touch the detonator in my pocket and we’re all goin’ BOOM! Are all the pieces comin’ together? S****, I’m just a crazy sociopath that gets off playin’ you stupid f***s like a fiddle. And if y’all didn’t hear, I’m gonna be famous. Cause I’m just an aspiring rapper who likes attention who happens to be under investigation for terrorism cause y’all think I’m ready to turn the Valley into Fallujah. But I ain’t gonna tell you which bridge is gonna fall into which river or road. And if you really believe this s***, I have some bridge rubble to sell you tomorrow…BOOM! BOOM! BOOM!”
Tone Dougie….you sir, are not too bright.
Well you won’t believe what happens next in the saga of Tone Dougie! That is right; this wannabe rap star is indicted, goes to trial, is found guilty at trial, then begins the appeal process. And that is where the U.S. Supreme Court comes into play to discuss Tone Dougie’s lyrics.
The statute Tone Dougie was indicted under requires that a communication be transmitted and that the communication contain a threat. It does not, however, specify that the defendant must have any mental state with respect to the above elements. Basically, it does not indicate whether the defendant must intend that his communication contain a threat. Which was a problem for the U.S. Supreme Court as Tone Dougie’s conviction was premised solely on how his posts would be understood by a reasonable person.
The reasonable person standard is a familiar feature of civil liability in tort law, but the Court found this inconsistent with “the conventional requirement for criminal conduct – awareness of some wrongdoing.” Based on this theory, the Court found that Tone Dougie’s conviction could not stand because the jury was instructed that the Government need to only prove that a reasonable person would regard Tone Dougie’s communications as threats. This was an error, according to the Court, as Federal criminal liability generally does not turn solely on the results of an act without considering the defendant’s mental state.
With that said, the Court found that “there is no dispute that the mental state requirement in Section 875(c) is satisfied if the defendant transmits a communication for the purpose of issuing a threat, or with knowledge that the communication will be viewed as a threat.”
So the question now is did Tone Dougie purposely transmit his lyrics for the purpose of issuing a threat or knowingly understood that his lyrics would be viewed as a threat?
Either way, I think Tone Dougie will eventually end up in federal prison. But on a future album sales point of view, going to federal prison will only gain street credibility!