What constitutes a true threat?
WASHINGTON, January 20, 2016 – An “ugly” but private email will test the limits of free speech and possibly set precedent, according to a noted attorney handling the case.
Edward “Ted” Taupier, 50, was convicted of threatening a judge and breach of peace and sentenced to 18 months in prison by Connecticut Judge David Gold in a bench trial.
The conviction stems from an August 2014 email Taupier sent that described details of the home of his then divorce judge, Judge Elizabeth Bozzuto, “Bozzuto lives in watertown (sic) with her boys and nanny…there is 245 y(a)rds between her master bedroom and cemetery that provides cover and concealment,” and ended with an homage to Charlton Heston, “They can steal my kids from my cold dead bleeding cordite filled fists…as my 60 round mag falls to the floor and I’m dying as I change out of my 30 round mag.”
Evidence also showed the statement about Judge Bozzuto was part of a thread in which the individuals complained of their own divorce and custody trials.
One of the individuals who received the email, Jennifer Verraneault, became concerned and shared it with an attorney. That attorney contacted a judicial marshal, who contacted state police, who then forwarded a screenshot of the email to Bozzuto, according to court testimony.
Verraneualt, who is listed as a victim by Gold, declined comment along with Bozzuto when reached by email. Verraneault started a family court consulting business, Connecticut Family Court Consultants, which was registered on the day Taupier was arrested in August 2014.
Norm Pattis is a noted New England attorney, author of the book “Taking Back the Courts“ and was featured on a special about Marilyn Monroe. He is representing Taupier during his divorce.
While calling the email “ugly,” Pattis said the case will have sweeping ramifications on the future of free speech and will help to clarify the legal term “a true threat” which Pattis told CDN was, “something that actually places the intended target in alarm.”
Pattis said the fact that the email was not sent to the judge or ever intended to be sent to the judge will be central to his appeal, and he is confident that an appeals court will overturn the conviction and find that no reasonable jury could have determined the email to be a true threat.
Taupier said there are far-reaching implications for all citizens.
“They should know this happens in every state not just CT. Never get a divorce in a court system always stay away from court and get the divorce outside of court even with children! Stay out of family court in every state; there is a system of milking anyone with assets. Every state has these same issues, corrupt practices of targeting one parent; my case is just the typical case when the TARGETED parent fights back and is defiant despite the corrupt practices. My destruction happened when I began to become away to the overall destruction and corruption of the entire justice system.”
Taupier was arrested by 75 police officers, including members of the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team, and he has been forced to wear two ankle monitors since.
Tomasello, who is being charged with a variety of offenses after sending a series of text messages to his ex-wife in violation of a restraining order, has also had two ankle monitors for about a year. Both Taupier and Tomasello are confined to their homes because of “writing crimes.”
Shelton too was visited by members of the local SWAT team after a letter purportedly written by him was sent to a series of people, including his ex-wife’s divorce attorney. Shelton was also accused of threatening a judge, though the charge was dropped due to a lack of evidence.
Chris Mackney was arrested in the Dallas area in July 2013 by members of a SWAT team and charged with attempted extortion after he threatened to go to the media with allegations of abuse if his child support wasn’t reduced. Mackney was then flown on Con Air from Dallas to Virginia and spent about three months in jail awaiting trial before being found not guilty.
Mackney killed himself on December 29, 2013.
All four — Taupier, Shelton, Tomasello, and Mackney — said they were involved in abuse and unfair divorce proceedings and had draconian restrictions placed on them due to writing crimes.
According to Taupier, authorities admitted that the terms of his bond are unprecedented. He said that the Sentinel representative who installed his ankle monitor said, “There has never been in the history of the state, any threatening case with these types of conditions. This type of monitoring for 5-9 months is the longest I have seen.” He added that in 21 years of employment, he has never seen this type of punitive punishment.
Taupier said he is being targeted for his political activism.
On 18 JUNE 2014, Judge Elizabeth Bozzuto: Despite never being in front of her, or any Family Court Judge, I was dressed in a suit. Judge Bozzuto accused me of being a political activist and admonished me and accused me of bringing politics into her own personal court room.
I had never been in a CT Court with her; or any Judge and said anything more than yes or no while speaking on the record. I was being labelled and accused by the CT Administrative Family Judge that I never met, as being a litigant who was brining politics into her own personal court. Mind you… not the CT Citizens court but HER OWN Private Court.”
In a court transcript from June 2014, Bozzuto harangued against her court becoming politicized, “It was brought to my attention by the supervisor that there was some communication to the Family Relation’s officer who’s doing this that injected some of the politics that’s been going on outside this courthouse into this case; I can’t allow that. I can’t allow Taupier vs Taupier to be politicized. I can’t allow that.”
Bozzuto is not without controversy herself, having sealed her own divorce while presiding over other people’s divorces. One litigant, Susan Skipp, was unaware that her ex-husband’s attorney, Rosemary Guiliano, was also Bozzuto’s attorney during her divorce because the file was sealed.
Shortly after Taupier wrote the emai in question, Bozzuto signed an ex-parte order removing Taupier’s children from the school they were attending. Taupier filmed the police forcefully taking his children out of school, and it was only after this scene was placed on You Tube that Verraneault contacted outside individuals.
There are several high profile cases that may play a role in Taupier’s appeal, including Elonis v. United States, where a man, Anthony Elonis, made a series of threatening statements including fantasizing about killing his wife on Facebook as well as other statements of a threatening nature against his divorce judge, also on Facebook.
The U.S. Supreme Court overturned Elonis’s conviction, arguing that the reckless nature of the threat wasn’t enough without intent.
Pattis told CDN that he doesn’t consider Elonis important because it is a federal case and because he believes Connecticut law already provides for more protection than that granted in Elonis.
Pattis was also involved in an appeal in Connecticut involving Laurence Parnoff, who said to threatened members of the Water Department, “Do I have to get a gun to get you off my property?” when they refused to leave his property.
His conviction was overturned, the judge ruling he was acting in protection of his property.
In a third case, involving a New York police officer who fantasized on an Internet forum about raping and eating an acquaintance, a conviction was overturned with a judge ruling there was not enough evidence of intent.
In all three cases, unlike in Taupier’s case, the perceived threats were made in public,. Pattis noted that on the bottom of Taupier’s emails there is standard language against sharing emails in an unauthorized manner, providing further evidence the email was meant to be private.
Pattis said he’s not sure yet what cases he will cite, as he has 50 days to write the brief, but he expects to be able to prove that the elements of a true threat were not proven. Pattis told CDN that because of First Amendment implications of this case, there is a possibility appeals may reach all the way to the Supreme Court.
He said the entire process could take as long as three years, twice the length of Taupier’s sentence.
Brenda Hans, the Connecticut prosecutor who prosecuted Taupier, declined comment. Judge Gold did not respond to an email request for comment.
Taupier said his harassment has not stopped, though he was in jail from January 12 to 15 before being released on an appeal bond. An appeal bond is a bond given in some cases when the defendant plans an appeal. He arrived home to find members of the Connecticut State Police removing his computer equipment from his house.
The Connecticut State Police would only say that there was an ongoing investigation and directed all calls to the Connecticut State’s Attorney’s Office, which declined comment.
It is unclear what crime could have sparked the warrant, since Taupier has been confined to his home since the arrest and no one claims he violated his bond.Click here for reuse options!
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