Fromm Country v. DuttonJudges Stephanie Ann Mitterhoff and Carmen Alvarez of the New Jersey Court of Appeal ruled Wednesday:
Defendant Shahouna Dutton is appealing a conviction of October 15, 2019, sentencing her to four years for falsifying witnesses. We confirm, in essence, for the reasons set out by Judge John A. Young in his thoughtful and well-founded opinion.
From the minutes we establish the following facts. On March 29, 2017, Terrell Smith was shot and killed in Jersey City. During the ensuing investigation, Hudson County Attorney’s Office (HCPO) detectives spoke with Aladdin Hicks, a witness to the shooting, who initially denied knowing the shooter’s identity. In a subsequent statement, however, Hicks identified Shaquan Hippolytus as the archer. Hicks explained that he had not identified Hippolytus earlier because he feared for his safety. About two and a half weeks before the murder of Smith Hicks, he was jumped by some of Hippolytus’ collaborators. After testifying to police, Hicks moved out of state.
On June 20, 2017, Hippolytus was arrested and charged with the murder of Smith. Hyppolite was eventually charged with murder and gun crimes.
In July 2017, a police report outlining Hicks’ statement to police was handed over to Hyppolite as part of a pre-trial revelation. The trial, originally scheduled to begin on February 28, 2018, was postponed because Hicks refused to testify. Hicks is said to have refused to testify because in August 2017, the defendant posted a video on Snapchat of an unknown person holding a copy of a police report summarizing Hicks’ identification of Hippolytus as the shooter. A female voice in the background said:[w]Well, people will really tell, people will tell. This is not right, this is not right. “
Hicks was associated with people who defended his friends, who believed they were responsible for Wilson’s death and believed that the attack on him was revenge for Wilson’s death. After the defendant posted the Snapchat video, Hicks’ mother told HCPO detectives that she feared for her safety and that of her son ….
“The Supreme Court has recognized ‘several limited’ categories of statements that may be restricted on the basis of their content, including defamation, obscenity, ‘battle words’, incitement to impending illegal actions and ‘real threats’. In addition, the court had previously ruled that the New Jersey Witness Statue was constitutional because there was “an important government interest” in “preventing intimidation and interfering with potential witnesses or whistleblowers.”
“True threat” includes “statements in which the speaker intends to communicate a serious expression of intent to commit an act of unlawful violence to a specific person or group of persons.” ‘protect[ ] individuals from the fear of violence and from the disturbances caused by fear, in addition to protecting people from the possibility of threatened violence. “” “In contrast, ordinary hyperbole, even” fierce, corrosive,… unpleasantly sharp attacks “and” offensive, insulting and inaccurate “speech are protected.”
“Alleged threats must be considered in the light of their entire factual context, including environmental events and listeners’ reactions.” “Contextual factors include the language itself and whether it is conditionally stated.” “We are pleased that Judge Young correctly determined that the defendant’s post on Snapchat was not a protected speech.”
For more information on the defendant, who is apparently known as “Oopie from Bullet Town”, see TIMES.