`Man`s call to shoot Obama on web is free speech’

A US court has overturned the criminal conviction of a man accused of posting racial epithets.

Last Updated: Jul 21, 2011, 09:39 AM IST

Washington: A US court has overturned the criminal conviction of a man accused of posting racial epithets and a call to `shoot` US President Barack Obama on an Internet chat site, by calling it `constitutionally protected` freedom of speech.

Walter Bagdasarian, from California, was found guilty two years ago of making threats against a major presidential candidate in comments he posted on a Yahoo.com financial website on October 22, 2008.

Bagdasarian told investigators he was drunk at the time, Los Angeles Times reports.

A divided panel of the US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned that conviction saying Bagdasarian`s comments were "particularly repugnant" because they endorsed violence but that a reasonable person wouldn`t have taken them as a genuine threat.

The observation that Obama `will have a 50 cal in the head soon` and a call to `shoot the [racist slur]` were not violations of the law under which Bagdasarian was convicted because the statute doesn`t criminalise `predictions or exhortations to others to injure or kill the President,` said the majority opinion written by Judge Stephen Reinhardt.

"When our law punishes words, we must examine the surrounding circumstances to discern the significance of those words` utterance, but must not distort or embellish their plain meaning so that the law may reach them," the court said.

ANI