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Saturday, January 8, 2011

Arizona Shooting Will Spark Government Scrutiny of Political Activists

Political activists should review what they say, write and do, and the company they keep, after Arizona Federal District Chief Judge John Roll was among several people killed and Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) critically injured by a young gunman alleged and reported to be 22-year-old Jared Lee Loughner in what may be some sort of twisted political protest.   

This shooting calls to memory the recent prosecution and conviction of New Jersey blogger and former FBI informant Harold "Hal" Turner on charges of threatening to kill three federal district judges from Chicago.  Turner had been alleged to have said that the judges "deserved" to be killed for their ruling on a gun-rights issue, shortly after his questionable employment with the federal government apparently ended. 

There is likely no connection between any of Turner's rhetoric or statements -- however motivated -- and the incidents in Arizona today.  However, today's tragedy -- also, let's not forget, the most serious of crimes -- should be expected to increase government scrutiny of any political speech which can reasonably be viewed as inflammatory or incendiary.  It is natural and reasonable to assume that there may be other people bent on violence, including but not limited to copycats and those who simply would use this crime to inflict terror to further their cause. 

Political activists and community activists, including any people whose activity is limited to one issue (e.g., pro-life / anti-abortion activists), should consider reviewing their statements and activities, evaluating the company they keep, and consulting with qualified legal counsel to review their potential exposure to government scrutiny and to handle any government inquiries. 

Eric Dixon is a New York lawyer who has been practicing law since graduating from Yale Law School in 1994.  Mr. Dixon cautions that this article is not legal advice.  Mr. Dixon is available for consultation or comment at edixon@NYBusinessCounsel.com and 917-696-2442.  

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