The Third Department, reversing defendant’s “making a terroristic threat” conviction, determined the conviction was against the weight of the evidence, Defendant’s brother was incarcerated. Defendant was concerned that his brother was being harassed by corrections officers. Defendant allegedly called the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision and said he would “blow an officer’s head off” “if they touch my brother:”
…”[A] person is guilty of making a terroristic threat when[,] with intent to . . . affect the conduct of a unit of government by murder, . . . he or she threatens to commit . . . a specified offense and thereby causes a reasonable expectation or fear of the imminent commission of such offense” (Penal Law § 490.20 ). Penal Law article 490 was enacted following the September 11, 2001 attacks and was “specifically designed to combat the evils of terrorism” … . Accordingly, “[t]he concept of terrorism has a unique meaning and its implications risk being trivialized if the terminology is applied loosely in situations that do not match our collective understanding of what constitutes a terrorist act” … ….
… [T]he evidence fails to establish that defendant “cause[d] a reasonable expectation or fear of the imminent commission” of an offense under the factual circumstance presented here (Penal Law § 490.20 ). Neither the first investigator nor the supervisor took any actions to warn the correctional facility or any other agency or individuals of the threat. While a notice was eventually issued, this was not done until well after the initial threat was made. None of the witnesses provided any testimony that they or anyone else had a reasonable expectation or fear that the threat would be imminently carried out, nor did their actions indicate any such belief. People v Santiago, 2022 NY Slip Op 04196, Third Dept 6-30-22
Practice Point: Here defendant’s statement he would “blow an officer’s head off” “if they touch my brother” did not cause the investigators who heard the statement to expect or fear the imminent commission of the offense, which is an element of “making a terroristic threat.” Defendant’s conviction was therefore against the weight of the evidence. The decision cautions against interpreting the “terroristic threat” statute loosely.