Solicitation of Murder is a Crime
Even When Committed By Celebrities
© CLIFFORD C. NICHOLS, ESQ., November, 2017
It is time that we as a society should reconsider the questions presented by the following hypothetical. Perhaps it will help to shine a light upon a certain malignancy that appears to be manifesting itself in our nation’s discourse with increasing frequency – the celebrities among us who float the idea to their fans that they would appreciate anyone who might actually assassinate the President of the United States of America.
- Assume citizen A (e.g. a celebrity) dislikes citizen B (e.g. President Trump) enough (for whatever reason) that he or she publicly offers a reward – whether it be cash or gratitude – to anyone who might actually kill citizen B.
THE QUESTIONS PRESENTED:
- Should the public broadcast of citizen A’s offer be overlooked as the exercise of their right to free speech?; or
- Should Citizen A be arrested, prosecuted and imprisoned for soliciting a murder – even if the actual murder never occurs?
Hopefully, there still exists among us a majority who would agree that the latter result would not only be preferable and appropriate, but should be mandated in any society that might hope to retain the mantle of civility.
Gladly – and to our credit – , that is exactly the case. A solicitation of murder is a separate and distinct crime unto itself under the laws of every jurisdiction in America that is punishable even if the murder being solicited never occurs.
SOLICITATION OF MURDER DEFINED: The act of offering any kind of a reward or inducement to another with the intent of encouraging them to kill a designated person.
Might we ask ourselves, therefore, why we as a society are repeatedly turning a blind eye to the calls for the assassination of the President, just because the people soliciting his murder happen to be famous?
Earlier this year none other than our former U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch presented her plea on the Internet to coalesce a unified violent opposition to the Presidency of Donald Trump.
To encourage participation in the “resistance” she was calling for, she linked the identity of those who would respond to that of unspecified heroes from our nation’s past. And to encourage their acceptance of bloodshed and death being necessary in the course of their resistance she said:
“They’ve marched. They’ve bled. Yes, some of them have died. This is hard. Every good thing is. We have done this before; we can do this again.”
TRANSLATION: All those listening who – like Ms. Lynch –, oppose the election of President Trump now have the word of a former U.S. Attorney General that history will remember those willing to participate in her “resistance” as a national heroes … even if some people are either maimed or even have to die.
As a possible result, could this explain why we now have ANTIFA – the underground operation committed to the overthrow of our duly elected President and his Administration? It is likely.
Sadly, however, the call to arms against the President did not end with Ms. Lynch. Other people in the public eye – people of fame – have also suggested to the public their own versions of resistance.
- · Roger De Niro declared he would like to see President Trump punched in the face; and
- · Mickey Rourke would have him beat with a baseball bat.
Other celebrities, however, have openly pushed their hatred of President Trump to another level. They have blatantly let us all know that, for them, the President’s death – i.e. assassination – would be the outcome they would prefer seeing come to pass.
- · Charlie Sheen tweets to his over 12 million followers that he would hope for God to kill him;
- · Celebrity Chef Anthony Bourdain tells millions of TMZ viewers he would prefer Hemlock;
- · Madonna tells all of America her dreams suggest a bomb would work; meanwhile
- · The New York's Public Theater evidently would prefer stabbing him to death; and
- · Johnny Depp seems to agree it might be a good time “for another actor to kill a President”; whereas
- · Snoop Dogg would opt for him to be shot; while
- · Kathy Griffin apparently would even find a beheading acceptable.
Of course, after the fact, these celebrities predictably dismissed their miscreant suggestions of homicidal violence as being nothing more than mere expressions of artistic license, exercises of free speech or even failed attempts at comedy. Going forward, however, can we afford to continue accepting such explanations until someone actually acts to achieve the outcome? Or, if for no other reason than the sake of a desire to maintain our government’s continued stability, should these celebrities instead be held accountable for such malignant behavior before they induce someone listening to them to give them their wish?
To evaluate a celebrity’s culpability in these circumstances, let’s first consider the obvious. Celebrities know that, by virtue of their celebrity status, they are not acting in a vacuum. Celebrities, by definition, know – cannot deny – they have in some cases millions of people who admire them, like them, love them and, in some cases, even worship them. Otherwise, they would not be celebrities with any access to the proverbial public microphone.
Secondly, however, and perhaps more importantly, considered next should be the fact that most, if not all, celebrities are also very aware of the fact that residing within each of their respective fan-bases are defective people -- people who dwell on the fringe of society - people who are mentally unstable, if not deranged – people who foreseeably might seriously attempt to kill someone, if they are led to believe it would obtain the adoration of the very celebrity they happen to irrationally adore. In fact, these fringe dwellers are the exact reason most celebrities of any stature have armed security and choose to live in seclusion. Such fans can be, and sometimes are, very dangerous – and the celebrities they stalk know it.
It is within the context of a celebrity’s knowledge of the existence of such deviant fans that any celebrity’s public declaration regarding the “goodness” of a President’s assassination must be judged. Viewed under the glaring light presented by this reality these variant presentations of the idea of assassination to the public by celebrities cannot possibly be seen as entertainment. It most certainly is not comedy. And, it certainly should not be speech that is free of, much less protected from, its foreseeable, and ultimately probable, consequence – a quite possible attempt to take the life of a President.
Instead, such acts should be condemned it for what they are – acts taken in furtherance of knowingly encouraging, if not intentionally weaponizing, an acknowledged fringe element that potentially exists within any celebrity’s fan-base. The reality is it’s an inducement of favor offered by the celebrity to their fringe quite possibly in the hope that someone residing within it will do what the celebrity is not willing to do themselves – kill a President upon whose back the celebrity has knowingly and intentionally placed a target.
Should it be doubted, consider the link that connected the actress Jodie Foster to President Reagan. It was to curry her favor that in 1981 one of her “fans”, John Hinkley, Jr., took it upon himself to actually shoot President Reagan, thinking – erroneously – that Ms. Foster would “love” him more for having done so. Would she think it acceptable for a celebrity today to suggest to their fans -- among whom they know might be included the likes of Mr. Hinkley – that they would adore whoever might kill a sitting President they dislike? Or, because of Ms. Foster’s awareness that celebrities know people like Hinkley do exist in the shadows, would she not instead be more likely to rebuke such a celebrity’s public endorsement of a President’s assassination for being the commission of the exact crime that it is -- the solicitation of murder?
THE POINT: It is time we acknowledge that a celebrity who takes any action that would foreseeably induce a crazed fan seeking their approbation to murder another should be treated no differently than anyone else who, lacking fame, might only place an ad in a newspaper offering cash for the same purpose.
To some, the inducement of being the possible recipient of a celebrity’s approval, if not love, can foreseeably be worth far more to some than any cash that might otherwise be offered.
Should you still doubt it, perhaps you might ask Mr. Hinkley.
© Clifford C. Nichols 2017 — Mr. Nichols -- a former research associate of The Heritage Foundation -- graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles, Summa Cum Laude, with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics, and was elected to membership in the Phi Beta Kappa society. He received his Juris Doctorate degree, Cum Laude, at Northwestern Pritzker University School of Law where he served as a member of the Board of Editors of the Northwestern University Law Review. Today, Mr. Nichols is an attorney licensed to practice law in both California and New Mexico.