Police arrested a 30-year-old New Jersey resident for aggravated assault, and making terroristic threats, because he posted something on Facebook, which implied that he condones violence against abusive law enforcement officers that harass innocent citizens.
The ill-timed Facebook post occurred within a broader discussion that was in reaction to the ambush killing of two NYPD officers two days prior:
Don’t wana [sic] get clipped while sitting in your squad car?? Don’t be a faggot ass pig whos [sic] looking to get killed. Fuck you. Everyone who goes out of their way to fuck with people, should get executed in cold blood. Don’t be a dick.
According to the police report, the day after Matthew Reardon’s Facebook post, Tinton Falls, NJ police detective Joseph Schuler went to Reardon’s street to “conduct surveillance.” When Reardon came outside of his house, Schuler arrested him. It doesn’t appear that the detective had a warrant, so I’m not sure what lawful basis there could have been for the arrest. Nonetheless, Reardon was charged and held in lieu of $75,000 bail, which he couldn’t afford. He sat in jail for eight days, until a judge lowered his bail to a reasonable sum.
This was the officer’s purported justification for the arrest:
In light of recent violence against law enforcement officers, I explained to Matthew how his threat is viewed as an attempt to cause serious bodily injury to any law enforcement officer. Matthew indicated that he was intoxicated at the time of his post and explained that he decided to post this statement after he watched several YouTube videos in which police officers were seen harassing innocent citizens. I informed Matthew that the videos posted on YouTube are not always real and commonly presented from a one-sided view, to which he understood and agreed.
But it isn’t clear where the actual “threat” was in the Facebook post. If you translate Reardon’s intoxicated, unintelligible rant into English, it goes something like this: “Cops shouldn’t use/abuse their authority to exert unnecessary force upon ordinary, law-abiding citizens, and screw those who do. People who make an effort to harass and terrorize others shouldn’t be allowed to walk around with the rest of us. Treat people how you want to be treated.” If lack of eloquence (or discretion, or just plain stupidity) were a crime, then Reardon could be guilty of that, but his words cannot form the basis for charges of aggravated assault and making terroristic threats. These are serious criminal charges, which carry up to a four-year prison sentence.
If I were a cop, I wouldn’t be thrilled with Reardon’s comments, but the cop’s reaction in this circumstance only made things worse. In fact, by unlawfully arresting a citizen for exercising his First Amendment rights, the cop essentially vindicated Reardon’s words.
Six months later, Reardon’s charges were “administratively reduced” to harassment, and obstructing the administration of law, but then last week, NJ Superior Court Judge Lisa Thornton, Assignment Judge for Monmouth County, dismissed all the charges (PDF). Good work by his lawyer, Richard Lomurro, of Freehold, NJ. Lomurro’s firm also handles civil rights cases, but it isn’t clear, yet, as to whether they will be filing suit (for wrongful arrest and/or First Amendment violations) against the borough of Tinton Falls or the Monmouth County Prosecutor.