The New York Criminal Law Blog

NYPD Subpoenas Twitter For Identity of Aurora Copycat Threat

The NYPD is on alert after a Twitter user made numerous threats to shoot up the Longacre Theatre, where the Mike Tyson/Spike Lee show is currently being performed. The tweets made reference to the Aurora, Colorado "Dark Knight Rises" shooting, reports NBC New York.

In addition to dispatching officers to secure the theatre, the NYPD is also trying to determine the identity of the Twitter threat-maker. They made an emergency request to Twitter for identity of the user, but that request was denied, as the threat was not deemed to fall within Twitter's emergency disclosure guidelines.

The NYPD is thinking credible threat; Twitter is thinking terrible troll.

These are the tweets in question, as reported by NBC and the New York Post. What do you think: idiot kid pranking the world, or credible threat?

  • This s—-t ain’t no joke yo — I’m serious, people are gonna die like aurora
  • i wanna kill alot of people.
  • I might just shoot up this theater in new York I know they leave their exit doors unlocked. Ha now I gotta plan it step by step.
  • Well ima shoot that theater up tonight just trust me.
  • I had last minute plans. I’m in Florida rite now but it’ll happen i promise I’m just finishing up my hit list.

That final tweet was in response to someone calling him out on his failed promise to shoot up the theatre on August 2.

Twitter is notoriously tight-lipped about the identities of its users. In order to get a user’s identity, the company requires an immediate and credible threat of harm. Being that the threats were made up until August 3, and it’s now been days with no more threats and no action, it’s seeming more and more likely that the threats were just an idiot Internet troll. That being said, perhaps it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Regardless of Twitter’s internal policies, the NYPD can force the issue via a court-ordered subpoena. The subpoena was sought on Tuesday, according to reports.

If the idiot twitter-using troll is a New Yorker, they could face felony charges for the tweets. Making terroristic threats is a class D felony. The offense is simply making threats of certain crimes (including mass-murder) for the purpose of intimidating or coercing a civilian population. Please note: it is no defense that the defendant was incapable of carrying out the threat.

The punishment for such idiocy is up to seven years in prison, though if a judge feels that the situation and the defendant’s background do not warrant such a harsh result, they can grant a sentence of less than one year.

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