JOSHUA SCOTT ALBERT, an unemployed blogger who had attracted the wrath of local restaurateurs before he recently triggered outrage among law-enforcement authorities for Facebook pages he created, apparently didn't realize his antics could get himself in deep trouble.
But after the District Attorney's Office on Monday said it had charged the 26-year-old with serious offenses, Albert posted on his Staph Meal blog:
"This Is A Sad Day for American Civil Liberties." And in smaller print: "That's all I have to say."
Albert was not yet in custody as of Monday night. There is an arrest warrant out for him.
Albert has been charged with three counts each of criminal solicitation to commit murder, a first-degree felony, and terroristic threats and harassment, both misdemeanors, for Facebook pages he created calling for the murders of two top law-enforcement officials here and another page that supported two alleged cop-killers.
The charges were approved over the weekend. And they could very well stick.
"The First Amendment in this country protects freedom of speech and especially political speech," said Edward Ohlbaum, a Temple law professor who specializes in courtroom evidence. But, he added: "Criminal law says you are free to express your opinions as vehemently as you want to, but you can't threaten people with doing violence to them."
The courts, Ohlbaum said, will look at Albert's intentions - whether he intended to encourage a person to engage in violence against another person.
Albert, a former Philadelphia restaurant worker, had created a Facebook page called "I Support Chancier McFarland & Rafael Jones" - the two alleged cop-killers who gunned down Officer Moses Walker Jr. on Aug. 18. That page was removed Aug. 26. (A new page with that same name but little information on it has since been created.)
The original page showed gruesome images of police officers, one headless and the other with no hands. It said it was "a page to show support for the two brave men who shot and killed" Walker.
In one comment, Albert had written: "What's better than one dead cop? ............................... Two"
On Aug. 28, Albert created a "Kill John McNesby" Facebook page, which was described as "calling for the murder of Philadelphia Police Union President John McNesby," and a "Kill Seth Williams" page, which said it was "calling for the murder of Philadelphia District Attorney." Those pages have since been removed.
Robert Richards, director of the Pennsylvania Center for the First Amendment at Penn State University, said the body of law nationwide on online threats is "still up in the air." The U.S. Supreme Court has yet to weigh in on "true threats in cyberspace," he said.
But, he noted that in a 2002 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision, Planned Parenthood vs. American Coalition of Life Activists, the majority of judges found that a threat was made by the ACLA when it posted "wanted posters" online of abortion doctors, even though the group never directly threatened the doctors.
He also noted that police are getting serious about cracking down on threats made in social media. For instance, the New York Police Department last month subpoenaed Twitter to get information on the person who sent a tweet threatening to attack people in a Broadway theater.
Albert's blog was traditionally a place for restaurant-industry gossip, which irked restaurateurs, including Georges Perrier of Le Bec Fin, who sued Albert for libel last year.
Albert, reached by phone Monday afternoon, had no comment on the D.A.'s charges and would not say where he was.