Friday, October 5, 2012

Charges of Terrorism in Tennessee Often Fall Apart




A report out of The Tennessean has shown that the state is falling down when it comes to terrorism prosecutions, a charge that is apparently difficult to have stick. The paper found that only nine people in the state have been arrested on terrorism charges since the state’s laws went into effect in 2002. All but one of the defendants either had their charges dismissed or were convicted on lesser charges.

The law in Tennessee makes it a felony to commit any crime intended to “intimidate or coerce” civilians or the government or to disrupt government. The offense is punishable by up to 25 years in prison for a first offense.

The exact reason for why terrorism charges are so hard to make stick is difficult to pin down. It could be many things; mental illness on the part of the defendant will often excuse or reduce the charges. Prosecutors often end up taking into consideration the intent of the defendant making the threats as the words may have been said as a result of extreme emotional distress on their parts and not meant to actually cause harm.

Davidson County recently saw their first such terrorism–related arrest when Amal Abdullahi told a CEVA Logistics co-worker on September 1 that she was ready to die for Allah and that America was full of nonbelievers who should die. Police said she also told the co-worker that nobody pays any attention to her and “she should pick up a gun and shoot all these people.”

The incident was not reported to police until September 6, and CEVA could not be reached for comment. Abdullahi is currently free on $50,000 bond after family was able to post her bail. She is expected to be in court again on October 10 and has retained an attorney

Another terrorism-related arrest that fizzled happened in 2008, when a Middle Tennessee State University student was arrested after, police said, he set fire to his dorm and threatened large-scale devastation on the campus. Rather than admit to terrorism, he pleaded guilty to charges of setting fire to personal property and filing a false report.

On Halloween 2010, a local guy in Chattanooga was arrested on a terrorism charge after he called 911 to say there was an active shooter and several people had been wounded in the fictitious attack. Again, prosecutors dropped the terrorism charge and the man eventually pled guilty to a charge of making a false report.

Source: “TN terrorism charges are rarely upheld,” by Brian Haas, published at WBIR.com.

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