Teen Arrested For Emoji-Laden 'Terroristic Threats'

from the the-smoking-emoji dept

The question will probably never be satisfactorily answered, but here it is again: what constitutes a “terroristic threat?” According to the NYPD, it’s a line of emoji (emoticons) guns pointing at an emoji cop’s heads.

Osiris Aristy, a 17-year-old from Brooklyn, does not hold back in his Facebook status updates. He posts about his love for blunts and cough syrup, wanting to buy his mother a bigger home, and his disdain for the police.

Most of Aristy’s anti-cop status updates seem tame compared to the vitriol found all over the internet. They are not altogether different from many hip-hop lyrics, where the figure of the cop killer is sometimes an archetype of rebellion and power.

But on the evening of Jan. 15, according to a criminal complaint, Aristy posted a photo of a revolver with bullets beside it, and wrote he felt “like katxhin a body right now.”

Shortly thereafter, he posted the following:

N***a run up on me, he gunna get blown down,’ followed by an emoji of a police officer with three gun emojis pointed at it, according to a criminal complaint.

And at 11:05 p.m., Aristy posted “F**k the 83 104 79 98 73 PCTKKKK,” followed by the police officer emoji with two gun emojis pointed at it, the DA’s office said.

Here’s some of Aristy’s earlier “work,” for illustrative purposes.

That was enough for the NYPD. Three days later, Aristy was arrested. Due to the recent death of two officers at the hands of a man who posted threats online and actually followed through with him, the NYPD is taking every precaution to avoid a repeat of this tragedy. But this insight into its everyday tactics should give would-be criminals pause, as well as anyone else in the New York City area with publicly-accessible social media accounts.

Police received an arrest warrant from District Attorney Ken Thompson’s office after routine Facebook monitoring found that Aristy had posted selfies with guns, selfies with marijuana joints and statements made with emojis threatening to kill cops, according to the DA’s office and 83rd Precinct Inspector Maximo Tolentino.

“Routine Facebook monitoring.” That sort of statement demands a follow-up, but the NYPD being the NYPD, there won’t be any further details forthcoming. Is it some sort of data grabbing software that focuses on keywords and location? Or is it a handful of cops actively monitoring feeds and only capturing “relevant” information? Or is it just a terrible way of rephrasing “someone reported a threat and the NYPD followed up on it.” The latter seems most likely, considering Aristy’s earlier posts using the same emoji-gun-pointed-at-emoji-cop imagery was ignored.

One thing is for certain: the NYPD is all over perceived threats.

Ever since the December’s lone gunman made good on an Instagram threat to kill two cops, the NYPD has arrested at least five people for threatening police on social media.

(The actual number of cases is likely higher. The NYPD did not respond to repeated requests for the exact number of people arrested on such charges. The department also did not respond to questions regarding the criteria used to decide when to make arrests based on online threats.)

And no further details there, either.

The underlying dilemma will likely never go away completely. There’s no bright line between talking smack and issuing threats. A threat isn’t a threat without intent and it’s very difficult to prove its existence (or lack thereof). But the New York state statute governing terroristic threats — like many others around the nation — is a product of post-9/11 legislating. And like the others, it’s overly broad. While it still requires prosecutors to prove intent, it’s wide open enough to sweep up stupid statements, trash talking and about a million aspiring rappers.

The statute says that any statement intending to intimidate civilians or the government by threatening to commit a specific offense can be prosecuted as terrorism. It adds that a defendant’s unwillingness or inability to actually carry out the threat “shall be no defense.”

Applied to Aristy’s emoji, this statute seems to fail. No specific offense is contained in his postings. Only vague but violent assertions. On the other hand, the photo of the revolver adds credence to Aristy’s ability, if not his willingness, to carry out the emoji-illustrated threats.

As for the intent, that will be determined in court, if the judge doesn’t dismiss the case altogether. Because of the law’s broad wording and the NYPD’s increased surveillance of suspicious social media posts, there’s plenty of room for intimidation and abuse.

“The threshold to make an arrest is not the same as the one for a conviction,” [NY University law professor] Neuborne said. “This gives the police very significant power to harass people.”

Since the bar to obtain an arrest warrant on charges of making terroristic threats is only probable cause of the author’s intent, the NYPD could potentially arrest anyone who makes anti-cop statements, even if they come in the form of emojis.

Aristy is likely looking at doing time, even if the terroristic threat charge is dismissed. Police found 25 grams of marijuana and a gun while searching his residence.

The defining line between threats and free speech is still muddied. A case before the Supreme Court — involving Anthony Elonis’ social media postings (he says the posts were “rap lyrics,” his ex-wife and local law enforcement believe they are “true threats”) will attempt to sort this out. Whether the ruling will actually clear anything up remains to be seen. At the moment, it’s still a great way for stupid and obnoxious people to get arrested for typing faster than their brains can process. Or, as in the case of Aristy, a way to turn self-proclaimed street cred into a prison sentence.

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Comments on “Teen Arrested For Emoji-Laden 'Terroristic Threats'”

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Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: A consider-worthy point

We have a police force that has only gotten bigger since the crime peak in the 70s and 80s.

Our crime rate is comparable to the 50s, there just aren’t enough cats to rescue from trees.

Maybe a drastic cutback is in order.

What frustrates me is that they don’t actually try to play out the fantasy of teams of CSI forensic scientists who scour every unclear robbery or homicide for clues to be sure to get the right guy. (65%+ cases go unsolved!) Instead we have blues in rovers looking for microcrimes.

Too much work to get them edumacated, I guess. And it’s much more fun to beat on street schlubs.

Anonymous Coward says:

The wrongs in this article will not be making any rights.

These types of threats clearly do not rise to the occasion of concern. The police are doing themselves a great disservice.

They are literally helping the anti-police dissenters to make their case. I think the majority of Americans pretty much believe there is no possible way that they will get a fair shake in court.

Police need to remember, the more they push, the harder the backlash becomes. Sure it will start with all of the idiots and tough guys running their mouths, but the more they abuse their authority, the more the normal people will turn against them as well.

GEMont (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Methinks ye just got yerself listed.

By writing the words “I’m &&&&& to @@@@@ a cop”, the automatic software employed by the CIAFBINSA has just read your profile on TechDirt, activated the hidden spyware on the ISP link that TechDirt uses and downloaded whatever actual data was attached to your handle, and is currently running a security check to see if you, or anyone in your family, or any one you know, or ever spoke to, has ever posted, said, written or thought anything anywhere else that might be construed as threatening, or Terroristic in nature and has already added your last known residence to “the bad guys to watch list” for Trainee Swat Teams in your area.

I think that pretty nicely illustrates the real problem with secret mass surveillance and secret automated reaction systems in a fascist controlled police state.

Jake says:

I’m with the cops on this one, overall. That kind of smack-talk probably justifies having a couple of beat-cops drop by to carry out a ‘welfare check’ and maybe deliver some words of advice on the subject of engaging your brain before opening your big stupid mouth, constitutionally protected activity or not, and a photo of a firearm (which I doubt that kid had a permit for) is enough evidence to get a search warrant.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

(which I doubt that kid had a permit for)

The 2nd makes it clear. It is illegal for the government to even request that we wait 2 seconds for a background check or anything to acquire a firearm. It is also illegal for them to ban any firearm including a fully automatic one. Supporting laws that violate the 2nd means you have no standing when you have rest of your violated!

If you do not like the 2nd, then you must amend the constitution. Good luck with that.

Who am I kidding, you are like everyone else… you only care about the rights ,you do like, or support your political agenda right?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Well, the ambiguity is an intentional thing by its opponents.

The founding fathers that wrote the constitution are 100% clear on what the 2nd is meant to protect, cause they spoke on the subject A LOT, so there is truly no clarification needed. What is needed instead is a seriously healthy dose of reality and education about history. The education system over here is primarily liberal, and they have less of a use to teach true US history because it would get in the way of their social reforms. Can’t have that, therefore we are doomed to repeat history and we will be at war and fail yet again.

We are coming to a future where advancements in technology will be rendering government central infrastructures as more and more obsolete. Soon enough anyone with 2 brain cells to rub together will be able to 3D print deadly weapons.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

The founding fathers that wrote the constitution are 100% clear on what the 2nd is meant to protect, cause they spoke on the subject A LOT

This is the part the liberal media will never mention. They pretend the constitution was written in a vacuum and ignore all the writings from the framers regarding how and why it was written the way it was.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Text of the Second Amendment

Absolutely agree. Putting the explanatory clause in there just confuses people who don’t read the history. It should simply say “The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” and stop there. No extraneous clauses for people to misread as limitations on the scope, time, or place of the right.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

The National Guard is the militia which is supposed to be under the command of State Governments. However, at some point they fell under the control of the Federal Government which completely undermines the purpose of the 2nd amendment. Which is to have the capacity to defend ourselves from a tyrannical government.

Such is the case of the Boston Massacre in which the entire city of Boston was turned into a giant concentration camp under British rule. Anyone who wanted to enter or leave had to disarm or face execution.

Why most people seem to not remember any of this is beyond me.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“That kind of smack-talk probably justifies having a couple of beat-cops drop by to carry out a ‘welfare check'”

I disagree completely. Smack talk never justifies having cops show up at your door to intimidate you.

Some of the other things mentioned in this particular case (pictures of drugs and guns, etc.) might justify some sort of investigation, but not talking smack.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Well, what might be drugs and guns… or might be hand-rolled cigarettes, talcum powder, and theatrical props. Hell, the images might be pure Photoshop magic.

I wouldn’t want this to be enough for a visit to someone’s home for a ‘chat,’ since it’s pretty obvious by now that chats can easily lead to warrantless searches and officers ‘fearing for their lives’ and ‘defending themselves’.

GEMont (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“…and a photo of a firearm (which I doubt that kid had a permit for) is enough evidence to get a search warrant.”

Dang! When did the law start requiring folks to get a permit to own a picture of a fire arm!?!?

Jumpin’ Jupiter, I hope them permits aint for each picture cuz then I’m a gonna hafta burn all of my hunting photo albums now, cuz me daughter just married her a cop!!!


Hey, I meant that like as a replacement for the word Shit, not that I was actually aiming to shoot anyone or nothing…

Is there a permit that lets me use words that sound like guns???!

GEMont (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Actually, idiot doesn’t quite express it well enough, but I too was unable to actually determine a proper english word that fit the situation.

Even moron doesn’t quite do it.

However, I still disagree with arresting people simply because they are stupid, idiotic morons, who post pictures on the internet, unless those pictures are of actual crimes in action and can be verified as not being made or altered in PhotoShop.

After all, the only way to effectively prevent crime from happening, is to arrest and incarcerate the entire human race, including the arresting officers and the prison guards and wardens.

Then throw away the keys.

No people = no crime.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I tend to look at it more of… a threat is credible when someone makes it clear they are about to do something.

“They know we coming for them” and a cop & gun emmoji is not enough in this context, while I am okay with a visit, its not enough for an arrest.

Now the “putting wings on pigs today” is a clear threat and definitely deserved a visit from the police.

MarcAnthony (profile) says:

Cartoon representations

From the article: “The teen’s references to law enforcement officers appear to be limited to cartoon representations of police and firearms.”

NYPD’s response to this teen’s mostly incoherent post also seems limited to cartoon representations of police. This is obviously just a dumb kid that’s expressing machismo through the language of the street. The fact that “the man” chose to involve itself just shows how reactionary they’ve become.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

It's not the gun, but the pot.

The NYPD really knows that one roach is enough to turn Aristy from a mild-mannered Brooklynian into a giant green-skinned Ronnie Coleman who is immune to artillery and can break tanks in half.

It’s a commonly known reaction between sickle cells and THC that manifests unstoppable superpowers not unlike the X-gene.

So the NYPD is only trying to nip-in-the-bud nothing short of a kaiju disaster in a major metropolitan area.

Anonymous Coward says:

> Or is it just a terrible way of rephrasing “someone reported a threat and the NYPD followed up on it.” The latter seems most likely

^ Bingo! If you think old people staring out their house windows and calling the police is bad. Try out Facebook and see how many people call the cops because they’re offended, bored, trolling, or legitimately concerned about your postings.

> The statute says that any statement intending to intimidate civilians or the government by threatening to commit a specific offense can be prosecuted as terrorism. It adds that a defendant’s unwillingness or inability to actually carry out the threat “shall be no defense.”

“If you don’t get your ass in gear, I’m going to shove my boot up your ass.”

^ I just made a terroristic threat under the law. I’m only using this as an example of how overly broad the law is, and I have no intentions of carrying this out. But that doesn’t matter, because “a defendant’s unwillingness or inability to actually carry out the threat “shall be no defense.”

I have no defense. I throw myself at the mercy of the court!

McDoogle says:

I don't know...

I don’t know. The kid had a gun and…

Aristy posted a photo of a revolver with bullets beside it, and wrote he felt “like katxhin a body right now.”…followed by an emoji of a police officer with three gun emojis pointed at it

My gangstaese is a bit rusty but I believe “catch a body” means “kill a person”. It does sound like he was/is a time bomb waiting to go off. Not saying that charging him with a “terrorism” offense or putting him in the “criminal justice” system will improve the situation at all. Just saying that the inference may not be unreasonable. It reminds me of the Immortal Technique song “Angels and Demons”:

“The system that you created created a monster, and now you scared ’cause it’s coming back to haunt you”

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: I don't know...

If the police reaction was based on the actual illegal activity that was reportedly depicted in the pictures, then I would agree with you. But the police reaction was to arrest the guy for a stupid string of emoji. I cannot imagine a situation where that’s a reasonble action.

As to whether or not he was a “time bomb”, I don’t think that’s at all clear (but there certainly does seem to be reason to be a bit suspicious). But let’s say it is clear. It’s still not a police matter, and the police are the last people that should be addressing it.

Harim G.A. (profile) says:

Corpus Delicti?

I am reminded of a time when evidence of a crime being committed had to exist before a person could be convicted of said crime..

Sadly, that time is not today and by the look of things.. The future shows law enforcement is hell bent on the “prevention” of imaginary crimes that might, possibly, could have occurred in an imaginary future.. Maybe..

Justice is no longer blind.. It has gone full retard..

bdj says:

I don’t like or trust the brutal, thuggish, citizen-hating US police. It is my right to feel that way. It is my right to tell others that I feel that way. That the police have been pretending to fear emoticons only demonstrates their complete and total disconnect from the society they ‘protect’. The fact that they have the resources to troll the Internet looking for mouthy kids indicates a budget surplus; one that desperately needs to be cut back.
Also, as a public service, don’t use PoliceBook (I mean FaceBook).

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

So if you make a threat on facebook they grab you, charge you, and let the system grind you up.

But if you make threats while holding a gun on them, beating them while they are cuffed, tasing & peppersrpaying them for being smart mouthed you get a commendation.

What we have learned is that expressing thoughts is bad, acting on them is the correct course.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

And this is why I’ve abandoned social media years ago. Not just because of the poor grammar and spelling that some people use but because I could see ‘thought crimes’ becoming a real thing in the near future.

Hence part of the reason why I try to post anonymously and if I can’t, I’ll use a generated throw-away account: http://www.fakenamegenerator.com/

GEMont (profile) says:

Old Dog - New Tricks - Unlikely

It might be interesting to determine how many American police officers are ex-military personnel.

I think that if it turns out that a large portion of the current police roster across America happens to be drawn from the ranks of ex-service men and women, that a great deal of the brutality and hatred of civilians might be better understood.

After all, such people did learn their hatred of civilians and their methods of brutality in a foreign land dealing with those they designated as the Adversary.

While in the field, it is a very real fact that those civilians the military brutalizes would, in an instant, kill those soldiers, if the opportunity arose.

This would be the very same training and experience that these ex-service personnel would bring to the table when employed as Law Enforcement Officers.

Of course, such information is likely classified as Top Secret, as it “might give criminals an advantage” of some sort.

“Criminals” in this case, referring to the general public.

Zonker says:

Re: Old Dog - New Tricks - Unlikely

Nah, ex-military are trained better than that and are not as well armed or armored as the police. Also according to a number of military veterans, American police officers routinely act contrary to the training they received in the military when it comes to threat assessment, engagement, and crowd control.

See military veterans response to Ferguson.

GEMont (profile) says:

Re: Re: Old Dog - New Tricks - Unlikely

By “Nah”, I assume you mean no – there are few or no ex-military personnel serving as LEOs.

I would prefer a better statistical set than a simple “nah” and your personal reassurances, if possible.

I agree that the cops are not as well trained as the military and that the cops are better equipped than the military, but its the number, or rather percentage of current police officers who have done military service in the field that concerns me.

Its not so much military training, as actual combat experience that I’m worried about.

Those veterans who speak out against police brutality and their clumsy urban-warfare pseudo-tactics, are, I assume, not active police officers themselves.

And while I am not trying to say that ALL ex-military personnel who experience combat, come home bent and twisted, I am saying that many do and I would also assume it would be those particular men and women who would seek employment in an occupation similar to military service where they can “kill bad guys”.

Very few occupations “back home” offer this particular “perk”, except Law Enforcement, in their Wars on Drugs and Terroists.

If enough of these people were present in the ranks of Law Enforcement, it would certainly go a distance to explaining some of the changes in police mentality and attitudes.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: I don't think these are changes.

From what I’ve been hearing from minority groups, there isn’t really much in the way of changes in police conduct. They’ve been brutal and reactionary — especially to minority communities — for decades, maybe the entire 20th century. The difference is now we’re seeing video of them thanks the the ubiquity of phone cameras.

There are changes in that military surplus gear is being trafficked to law enforcement (rather than private civilians who then would sell it) and the function-creep of SWAT teams (and otherwise, SWAT-style gear and tactics) for situations other than hostage-barricade.

Regardless, while we’ve seen some incidents (usually in other countries) of military units trained for front line confrontation with an enemy being brutal when confronted with the duty of policing a civilian population, the US has been more aware of that as a problem since Kent State. And Ferguson looked much like the reverse: units trained for policing civilians believing they are going into a front-line situation where they are confronting an enemy.

No, a handful of vets going postal as cops isn’t enough to explain what are now policies of brutality and overreach. That may be a factor from time to time, but I doubt we’ve had significant incidents in which a vet’s PTSD triggered the situation.

GEMont (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 I don't think these are changes.

I agree completely that the police have almost always behaved badly and are only slightly more belligerent today than in the past towards civilians. In many ways I think the laws that pertain to police activity have even been made stronger in certain areas. Not that laws pertaining to police have ever actually done much to stop the brutal actions of police against the population, since those laws are seldom invoked after the fact, by those “authorities” who are supposed to handle such things.

However, I’m not actually talking about a few “pistol-postal” Wannabe Rambo Types being responsible for all of the crimes we now read about every day, of police treating the public as an enemy force.

I’m thinking more along the lines of them becoming role-models among the civilian police forces, primarily because of their cock-sure, gung ho attitude and tactical warfare know-how – especially now that the whole notion of civilian policing has become extremely militant because of the Pseudo-Wars against Drugs and Terror and the generosity of the Federal Government in making nukes available to uniformed children.

I’m also assuming that of the veterans who return from combat, becoming a police officer would appeal more to the Rambo Type than to those who returned basically still sane.

And considering the recent exposures of police hiring practices, it would seem that such Rambo Types would be precisely the kind of new recruits the police administration would want in their ranks.

I’m a military brat myself and have a shitload of respect for any man or woman who willingly puts their life on the line for their country, whether s/he is really being used by corporate assholes to secure them new wealth or not, and I’d like to think that ex-military personnel are not the problem also, but rather than simply assume as much, I’d like to see some statistics on numbers currently serving as LEOs, before I dismiss the notion as implausible.

I’m simply not all that good at starting this sort of statistical investigation and was hoping for a link to some sort of sources that might give me a head-start.

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