In the age of the coronavirus, crime still exists even as the courts are mostly shut down across the United States and especially here in Illinois. In fact, throughout much of the U.S., the criminal justice system is on pause. However, in Missouri, one man has been charged with making terrorist threats after he videoed himself licking deodorant in a Missouri Walmart.
Cody Lee Pfister was arrested by the Warrenton police department after posting the video to social media on March 11. The Warren County Prosecutor’s Office has charged him with making terrorist threats in the second degree. The allegations read something like: Pfister knowingly caused a false belief or fear that a condition or danger was present that involved a danger to life. He did this with reckless disregard of the risk of stirring panic, evacuation, quarantine, or closure.
Making a Terrorist Threat in the Second-Degree
In this article, we will try to come up with some way to save this man from a terrible fate. While what he did was probably stupid, especially amid fears of the coronavirus causing panic throughout the nation, he probably does not deserve to go to jail for an extended period of time.
In Missouri, an individual commits a terrorist threat if:
- They communicate a threat to cause or communicates a knowingly false report that
- Causes people to believe that there is a threat to their life.
This is the first part of the statute. The second part requires that:
- The threat is communicated with a desire to frighten people
- The threat is communicated for the purpose of causing an evacuation, quarantine, or closure of a building
- The threat is communicated with criminal negligence with regard to the aforementioned risks
So, this looks pretty bad for our defendant. What kind of time is he looking at?
- Class-C felony – This is the worst-case scenario for our client. Class-C felonies are considered “moderate to serious” crimes. Our guy could be facing a minimum of three years and a maximum of 10 years in prison. That just will not do.
- Class-D felony – A class-d felony of making terrorist threats involves reckless disregard for causing a quarantine, evacuation, or closure of a building. In other words, there is no intent to terrify people. This is looking a little better for our client, but he would still end up with a felony on his record and he could face up to seven years in prison, but there is no mandatory minimum.
- Class-A misdemeanor – A defendant has committed a class-A misdemeanor if he was criminally negligent in making a statement that some perceived as a threat. This seems more like our guy, but he could still face up to a year in prison.
Missouri law will not make any distinction between an express or implied threat. Given the circumstances, the prosecutor could probably get a conviction on a Class-D felony. What we want is to ensure our client does not have a felony on his record, or better yet, does not have any criminal conviction on his record. But the law makes allowances for that type of crime even when it is not communicated with the intent of causing fear and panic. So, we would want to focus our arguments on diminishing the impact the threat had on people who saw the video and the fact that most of them probably did not experience terror because of the video.
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