Law School Case Brief
In re Ricky T. - 87 Cal. App. 4th 1132, 105 Cal. Rptr. 2d 165 (2001)
In order to sustain a finding that a defendant made a terrorist threat in violation of Cal. Penal Code § 422, the prosecution is required to show: (1) defendant willfully threatened to commit a crime that would result in death or great bodily injury; (2) he made the threat with the specific intent that it be taken as a threat; (3) the threat, on its face and under the circumstances in which it was made, was so unequivocal, unconditional, immediate and specific as to convey to the person threatened a gravity of purpose and an immediate prospect of execution of the threat; and (4) the threat caused the person threatened reasonably to be in sustained fear for his own safety.
Defendant, a 16-year old student, became angry when he was hit by a door opened by the teacher. Defendant threatened the teacher by saying “I’m going to get you.” The teacher felt threatened and sent defendant to the school office. According to the teacher, he felt physically threatened by defendant; however, he said defendant did not make a specific threat or further the act of aggression. Defendant was then found to have committed a misdemeanor terrorist threat in violation of Cal. Penal Code § 422. Defendant appealed, contending that there was insufficient evidence to support the finding that he uttered a terrorist threat.
Was there sufficient evidence to support the finding that the high school student uttered a terrorist threat?
The appellate court held that defendant's alleged threats lacked credibility as indications of serious, deliberate statements of purpose because there was no immediacy to the threat. There was no evidence that defendant exhibited a physical show of force, displayed his fists, damaged any property, or attempted to batter anyone. According to the Court, there was nothing to indicate that the teacher's fear was more than fleeting or transitory. The Court averred that momentary fear could not support a finding of sustained fear within the meaning of Cal. Penal Code § 422.
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