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Sentence Handed Down in Youtube Rap Video Case

The ever-expanding capabilities of the Internet have undoubtedly revolutionized the way we live our lives; from the unlimited inventory available for online shoppers at the click of a mouse, to the instant global interconnectivity provided by social media sites. However, the introduction of the Internet has also opened up new platforms for persons commit crimes.

Recently, two local men, Rashee Beasley and Jamal Knox, were convicted of intimidating witnesses, terroristic threats and conspiracy after making and posting a rap video on YouTube specifically referencing and threatening two Pittsburgh Police Officers by name. The two officers were involved in the arrest of Beasley and Knox seven months earlier on gun and drug related charges after a high-speed chase. The video also referenced Richard Poplawski, who infamously gunned down three police officers in 2009.

The defendants, who denied posting the video, argued that, regardless, the video was speech and therefore garnered the protection offered by the First Amendment. However, Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey A. Manning presiding over the non-jury trial disagreed, opining “It is abundantly clear to me that the conduct of the defendants here is not protected by the First Amendment because it far exceeds what the First Amendment allows,” the judge said. “They did, in fact, attempt to intimidate and communicate a threat. The rap video, by its very nature, is a communication.”

At the sentencing hearing, Knox asked Judge Manning not to look at him as “Mayhem Mal,” his rap name, but as the human being, “Jamal Knox.” However, both “Mayhem Mal,” the rapper, and “Jamal Knox,” the human being, were sentenced to two to six years in prison for the drug-related charges and the threats contained in the YouTube video. Judge Manning reaffirmed his stance that the sentence had nothing to do with free speech: “Mr. Knox, perhaps you think this is all about the song,” the judge said. “Believe me, it isn’t. It’s about fleeing and eluding and endangering the lives of police officers, members of the public, running stop signs and being in possession with intent to deliver drugs. Beasley was sentenced for one to three years in prison, followed by two years’ probation.

The Internet is still a relatively new service and is constantly evolving. There is little precedent on what we can and cannot lawfully post on it. Often, we are told to remove any incriminating material from social media sites, as current and potential employers can easily access it. It might be wise to apply that to the Internet as a whole.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/local/2013/11/21/Pittsburgh-rappers-convicted-after-threats-against-police-in-YouTube-video/stories/201311210322#ixzz2uH3QIRR7

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/local/city/2014/02/07/Sentence-issued-for-anti-police-rap-video/stories/201402070084#ixzz2uH6kKtDp