When Twitter trolling lands you in jail: Dallas case tests limits of free speech

Babak Taherzadeh is accused of harassing Judge Brandon Birmingham, who presides over the 292nd District Court, and threatening the judge's family on social media for months, according to an arrest warrant affidavit, here detained in the Dallas County Jail on November 18, 2016. (Andy Jacobsohn/Dallas Morning News/TNS)
Babak Taherzadeh is accused of harassing Judge Brandon Birmingham, who presides over the 292nd District Court, and threatening the judge’s family on social media for months, according to an arrest warrant affidavit, here detained in the Dallas County Jail on November 18, 2016. (Andy Jacobsohn/Dallas Morning News/TNS)

DALLAS—Babak Taherzadeh is a troll.

One of his Twitter personas boasts the bio: “im smarter than u unless you are really smart.”

He claims he has a “different sense of humor.” He peppers his tweets with profanity. He plays an online character, one he says doesn’t reflect who he really is.

That character got him into trouble.

Taherzadeh sits in the Dallas County jail, where he has been since June, on a felony stalking charge. He is accused of using social media to harass a judge who oversaw a criminal case against him.

Before his arrest, he regularly commented online on political issues and public figures.

Taherzadeh believes he was exercising his rights to free speech and to petition the government when he posted negative comments on social media about a state district judge.

But authorities see it differently. They say Taherzadeh’s tweets threatened physical harm.

The arrest warrant affidavit says Judge Brandon Birmingham “is in fear for the life of his family and for his own” because of Taherzadeh’s messages and social media posts.

The case against Taherzadeh shows the limits of free speech.

Source: http://www.duluthnewstribune.com/news/crime/4167935-when-trolling-lands-you-jail-dallas-case-tests-limits-free-speech


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