A lot of people have asked me about hate crimes laws ever since a Penn State student was recently charged with ethnic intimidation, terroristic threats, simple assault, stalking, disorderly conduct, public drunkenness and underage drinking following an incident in which the defendant allegedly verbally and physically assaulted a student of East Indian descent. Not surprsingly, the defendant was highly intoxciated. The felony ethnic intimidation charge was dismissed by a magisterial district judge, but was then refiled by the Centre County District Attorney's Office, with the hopes that a different judge will bind the charge over for trial.
Michael Afuwape of Philadelphia was found guilty of terroristic threats and firearms not to be carried without a license following a non-jury trial before Judge Pamela Ruest in the Centre County Court of Common Pleas on September 24, 2013. Police alleged that when a Penn State student inadvertently bumped into Mr. Afuwape during the 2012 Blue and White Game weekend, Mr. Afuwape lifted his shirt to reveal a hand gun, and threatened to shoot the student. The Penn State student and his three friends ran into McDonald's at College and Sowers and called 911. Afuwape was arrested shortly thereafter.
Justin Carter, a 19 year old from Texas, has been locked up in pretrial detention in Texas since March of this year for an insensitive comment he made on FaceBook in an exchange with another player of the online game "League of Legends." In an argument with a FaceBook friend about the game, Carter responded to an accusation that Carter was "messed up in the head," by writing "I think I'ma shoot up a kindergarten. And watch the blood of the innocent rain down. And eat the beating heart of one of them." The fact that Carter followed up his post with "jk and lol," was not enough to prevent a Canadian woman from being so alarmed that she notified authorities. Carter was eventually charged with terroristic threats, with bail set at $500,000, an amount so high that the judge obviously wanted to assure that Carter would never be able to make bail.
"Terroristic Threats" is such a common offense in Pennsylvania, that pretty much everyone in the Commonwealth has heard of this crime, and most Pennsylvanians have a pretty good idea of what it entails. Pursuant to 18 Pa.C.S.A. § 2706(a)(1), terroristic threats is defined as making either a direct or indirect threat to commit a crime of violence, with the intent of terrorizing another person. Thus, threatening to slash someone's tires is not a terroristic threat, but threatening to slash someone's throat is a terroristic threat.