Commonwealth v. Knox

190 A.3d 1146 (2018)

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Commonwealth v. Knox

Pennsylvania Supreme Court
190 A.3d 1146 (2018)

Facts

Jamal Knox (defendant) and Rashee Beasley were arrested by Pittsburgh police after a traffic stop. Bags of cocaine and a loaded firearm were found in their car. Knox and Beasley were charged with various offenses. While awaiting trial, they recorded a rap song titled “F—k the Police.” The song’s lyrics expressed hatred toward the police and specifically threatened to kill the two officers who arrested Knox and Beasley. Those two officers were scheduled to testify against Knox and Beasley at trial. The threatening lyrics mentioned the two officers by name and described how they would be killed. These threats were made in various ways throughout the song. The lyrics spoke of killing the two officers because they interfered with Knox and Beasley activities, characterized in the song as “knocking [their] riches.” A third party uploaded a professionally produced video of the song on YouTube and other public platforms. In the video, Beasley used the stage name Mayhem Mal, and Beasley went by Soldier Baez. Knox was arrested again and charged with, inter alia, two counts each of terroristic threats and witness intimidation. One of the officers testified at trial that he and the other officer mentioned by name in the song were afraid for their lives after finding out about the video. Knox raised the defense that the song was artistic expression protected by the First Amendment. He also contended that he never intended to harm the police, nor for the video to be made public. The superior court rejected the defense and found Knox guilty of terroristic threats and witness intimidation. Knox appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Saylor, C.J.)

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