Washington: Having a history of threatening women with violence, Christopher Cleary was arrested in January on the morning of the Women’s March in Provo, Utah. The 27 year old Colorado man blamed years of romantic rejection for his anger toward females, according to police affidavit.
“I am planning a shootout in a public space,” he posted on Facebook the night before his arrest, according to police, “killing as many girls as I see.”
He has a history for a host of second chances. The Denver resident had twice pleaded guilty to felony stalking charges for harassing and threatening women in his hometown, but was sentenced to mental health evalutions. Now, a judge in Utah has sentenced Cleary to up to five years in prison on charges of terrorism.
According to experts, the case pitted the First Amendment right to free speech against public safety concerns, testing he criminal justice system’s ability to answer to a man who wrote online that he wanted to be “the next mass shooter.”
Judge Christine Johnson’s ruling means Cleary could serve the maximum sentence for the charges, despite only probation was recommended, as reported by the Associated Press. It now fully depends on Utah’s parole authorities to decide whether Cleary will the full sentence.
The plea agreement meant even without a prison sentence in Utah, Cleary would have been convicted of a felony and sent back to Colorado to serve time for violating probation.
"I don't want to guess what Colorado is going to do," the judge said, the Deseret News reported.
Pam Russell, Jefferson County’s communications director, Colorado, told The Washington Post her office had sought to find an alternative to prison in line with Colorado law, but its clear that Cleary would now face prison when he returns to the state.
“The Colorado legislature made it clear that they oppose prison sentences for offenders convicted of low-level felonies,” Russel wrote in an email. "The District Attorney's Office believes that he may be a threat to the people and will ask for a prison sentence when he is returned to Colorado."
Cleary's previous stalking convictions in Colorado, both were low-level felonies, were based on threats and harassment against multiple women. In at least one case, he posted the victim's phone number on false Craigslist ads selling sex, leading to constant harassment and severe stress, according to a police. He made frequent shady threats, such as a text message in 2015 warning a lady, "I own multiple guns I can have u dead in a second."
Colorado police further investigated complaints that Cleary threatened to bomb a grocery chain and carry out mass shootings at a mental health facility.
In the Jan. 19 Facebook post, he blamed his motives to kill women on romantic rejection. "All I wanted was to be loved," he wrote, "yet no one cares about me. I'm 27 years old and I've never had a girlfriend before and I'm still a virgin."
Before his arrest, Cleary told police he was just "upset and not thinking clearly," according to the affidavit. At Thursday's trial, defense attorney Dustin Parmley argued the Facebook post "wasn't targeted at anyone in particular. He chose to be wayward to express his feelings of frustration," the Deseret News reported.
Amos Guiora, a law professor in Utah, said that while the First Amendment gives considerable protections to even vile speech, "it's really important to view free speech as not unlimited and needing to be perceived from the victim’s perspective."
"When you post 'I'm going to kill all the women I see,'" Guiora said, "that's not an indirect threat."...