Special Considerations in Proving a Threat
A threat has been defined as "an avowed present determination or
to injure presently or in the future." See United States v.
Dysart, 705 F.2d 1247, 1256 (10th Cir.), cert. denied, 464 U.S.
(1983); United States v. Marino, 148 F. Supp. 75, 77 (N.D.Ill. 1957).
See also 2 E. Devitt and C. Blackmar, Federal Jury Practice
§ 66.04 (3d ed. 1977). Most courts have held that the government need
prove that the defendant actually intended to carry out the threat. See,
e.g., Dysart, supra, 705 F.2d at 1257; United States
Kelner, 534 F.2d 1020, 1023 (2d Cir. 1977), cert. denied, 429
1022 (1978)(collecting cases). Contra, United States v.
438 F.2d 13, 16 (4th Cir. 1971) (en banc). The issue of defendant's intent
uttering particular words (e.g., whether an alleged threat was made
merely in jest), is a question of fact to be determined by the jury upon
consideration of the words themselves and the circumstances surrounding
use. See Martin v. United States, 691 F.2d 1235, 1239-40 (8th
1982), cert. denied, 459 U.S. 1211 (1983); United States v.
Carrier, 672 F.2d 300, 304-06 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 457 U.S.
(1982). The circuits are split on the question of whether specific or
intent is required. See United States v. Darby, 37 F.3d 1059
Cir. 1994), cert. denied, ___U.S.___, 115 S. Ct. 1826 (1995).|
A threat may be communicated to persons other than the person to
the threat is directed. See, e.g., United States v. Cooper,
F.2d 8 (6th Cir. 1975) (threats to injure fictitious persons made during
to radio station). See also Kelner, supra, (defendant
threatened during television interview to assassinate foreign leader).
The Ninth Circuit has stated that, as a general rule, the truth of
damaging allegations underlying a threat to injure the reputation of another
no defense to a charge of extortion. See United States v. Van
Linden, 561 F.2d 1340, 1341 (9th Cir. 1977), cert. denied, 435
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