Saturday, November 5, 2011

Details on Internet commenter's arrest

Posted By on Sat, Nov 5, 2011 at 1:10 PM

WHAT HE SAID: Dennis McCaslins Internet comments led to his arrest.
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  • WHAT HE SAID: Dennis McCaslin's Internet comments led to his arrest.
I wrote earlier this week about the arrest last week in Greenwood of part-time newspaper reporter Dennis McCaslin for "harassing communications," specifically threats posted in August on an Internet community chat site against Greenwood Alderman Lance Terry, who's also a local fireman.

McCaslin posted a string of comments under a pseudonym. He told me he was responding to a series of threats, particularly a phone threat he received while driving home after having some wine during dinner with his wife. He believed they came from Terry or Terry's supporters for his reporting on Terry's arrest on a disorderly conduct charge for jerking a petition on a local issue from an elderly man's hands and other city council controversies. A contingent of firemen apparently control the Greenwood council.

Terry pressed the police to find whoever was posting the comments. The police subpoenaed records of the topix.com community website and that eventually led them to McCaslin.

This morning, I received from Greenwood Police Chief Will Dawson the arrest report on the case, with the specific comments that support the charge. One lawyer has opined that harassing communications must be made directly to the person with the complaint. Does an Internet chat board count? I don't know. Does a promise to meet a threat of violence with violence amount to a threat or a sort of self-defense? You decide. A court will eventually make that call.

Here's the full arrest report. (CORRECTION: I've now opened the document up to public access.) Sample of comments made from IP addresses traceable to McCaslin (who's admitted he made responses to threats):

Punk ass bitch Lance Terry will be fighting fires from a wheelchair if he ATTEMPTS to violate my civil rights. Come to think about it, bring AC, Rod or Ken or anyone else in your retarded firebug brigade. I have a couple of friends with me named Smith and Wesson and they're pretty hospitable when someone starts messing with my constitutional rights.

Rough talk. Not smart. Especially for a reporter. Especially anonymously. But criminal behavior? We'll see. McCaslin also said Terry needed an ass whipping. That's protected opinion, seems to me. McCaslin says he can prove through other witnesses that he'd received threats for several months. It's not relevant in deciding the case once it's filed, but you have to wonder if the Greenwood police would work three months to run down an Internet commenter who had said similar if it had not been said about an alderman, whose father also serves on the city council.


Check it out.

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