U.S. Attorney for Idaho Wendy Olson issued this statement today:
“Many in the press, public and online bloggers are misinterpreting the statement I issued on Friday, June 24, 2016, in support of the five-year-old victim of an assault in Twin Falls, Idaho, and in support of the law enforcement authorities there who are prosecuting the case. The statement was not intended to and does not threaten to arrest or prosecute anyone for First Amendment protected speech. I issued the statement because public officials in Twin Falls have received threats. Certain threatening or harassing communications may violate federal law and will be investigated. I am also concerned that intentionally false and inflammatory rumors are creating an unsafe environment in Twin Falls. In this case, it appears that the threats have resulted from false and inflammatory information spread about this crime, often times by those from outside of the community. I encourage all to be patient while the juvenile justice system works. I also encourage all to support this victim and her family.”
The Idaho Statesman reported today that at least one prominent legal expert had questioned Olson’s original statement, suggesting it could be read as threatening prosecutions over normally protected expressions of free speech. “There is no First Amendment exception for ‘inflammatory’ statements; and even false statements about matters of public concern, the Supreme Court has repeatedly held, are an inevitable part of free debate,” UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh wrote in an opinion piece in the Washington Post, which the Statesman reprinted.