Appeals Court: Wishing a cop dead is not a terroristic threat

The Minnesota Court of Appeals today said if someone says he hopes a Minnesota state trooper will be shot, that’s not a terroristic threat.

The court ruled in the case of Gregory Allen Olson, who was in a car stopped by police in October 2014 as he and a friend were driving to Chisago City after an evening of heavy drinking.

After a subsequent short chase, the trooper pulled Olson from the car where the man refused field sobriety tests.

On the way to a hospital, Olson is alleged to have said, “It is no wonder people are killing you guys. . . . I truly hope that you are one of the cops that gets their head blown off. . . . I truly hope that because I have done nothing wrong. I stopped to make a f—ing phone call because I got beat up. You guys are ***holes.”

It didn’t stop once Olson got to the hospital, according to court records.

“I hope someone puts a slug in your head, you loser.” While the trooper was driving Olson to jail, Olson said, “It is no wonder people are shooting you guys all the time. You see it all the time. There is going to be a lot more.”

Olson was charged with fleeing a peace officer, terroristic threats, test refusal, fourth-degree DWI, obstructing legal process, failure to obey a peace officer, and fifth degree assault.

A jury convicted him on all counts.

But writing for a three-judge Court of Appeals panel, chief judge Edward Cleary ruled that Olson’s comments weren’t a threat. “A threat must communicate that the person will act accordingly,” he said.

Olson did not say that he would kill the trooper. Olson’s statements conveyed his hope that the trooper would have his head blown off, or that someone would put a slug in the trooper’s head, and generally predicted more violence against police officers. But Olson’s statements did not communicate direct threats that Olson would act accordingly.

In contrast, Olson did not engage in either verbal or physical conduct that indirectly communicated a threat that he would commit future crimes of violence. The record reflects that Olson was confused, whether from drinking or a head injury, and frustrated with his arrest. Although Olson was verbally abusive and his statements were offensive, those statements did not indirectly communicate that Olson had the purpose to commit those acts. Olson’s statements did not amount to indirect threats to commit a future crime of violence.

Olson also challenged his conviction under the state implied consent law, which makes it a crime to refuse a breath test without a warrant. While a recent decision by the U.S. Supreme Court overturned warrantless blood and urine testing, it upheld the constitutionality of Minnesota’s law on breath tests.

However, Olson won his appeal that he shouldn’t be sentenced for both DWI and refusing the sobriety test because Minnesota law does not allow two sentences for the same behavioral incident. The Court of Appeals agreed and threw out his 90-day DWI conviction and sent the case back to a lower court, where he could be sentenced for up to a year in prison for refusing the sobriety test.

  • When I did police work back in the 80s, I heard all sorts of nonsense from drunks. You can’t have a thin skin to do that work. Of course this is the right call – it would be wrong to charge him for a threat.

  • jon

    Bold move Bob… I know you have a lot of faith in your news cut community, but telling us all that it’s legal to tell some one that you “hope someone puts a slug in [their] head” … sometimes it just seems like a recipe for abuse!
    🙂

    p.s. I don’t want any of you catch a slug with your head… unless that is the intended goal of the magic trick you are attempting, in which case best of luck, and let us know how it goes.

  • Rob

    Another eminent court ruling, reiterating that just because you’re a total tool, it doesn’t make you a terrorist.

  • RBHolb

    I’m surprised that the case got as far as it did. When I was cutting my legal teeth as a district court law clerk in the early 80s, the local prosecutor filed terroristic threat charges against a man who expressed similar sentiments while under arrest, sitting cuffed in the back of the police car. The judge I clerked for threw the charges out without any serious discussion.

  • Will

    I thought implied consent was illegal now… outside of a breath test.

    • That’s implied consent. He refused a breath test.

      • Will

        Refusing field sobriety tests was always legal, you now cannot refuse the full breath test at the station… that’s my understanding.

        • In this case, the tests I’m referring to is the breathalyzer and tests involving a “search”. It has nothing to do with where you refuse those kinds of warrantless tests Refusing a test, even without a warrant, is a felony in Minnesota, worse that the DUI. What has changed is that blood tests and urine tests cannot now be drawn — anywhere — without a warrant, despite the concern by public safety that in the time it takes to get a warrant, a driver would sober up.

          That was as a result of the North Dakota portion of the SCOTUS ruling. The Bernard portion of the ruling didn’t make it illegal to refuse a breath test; it always was under implied consent.

          Separate, the commissioner of public safety can still automatically suspend your license in any case.

          Read the linked article on the Supreme Court case I supply above and that should clear up your confusion.

          • Laurie K.

            Actually, if the officer asks for either blood or urine without a warrant, and that person refuses, the Commissioner of Public Safety cannot revoke driving privileges. In an unpublished Court of Appeals decision from November 7, 2016, the COA upheld a district court’s decision to rescind the revocation based on its conclusion that the implied-consent advisory misinformed the driver regarding the potential criminal penalty for refusing to
            submit to a urine test. The COA found that due to the misrepresentation, the driver’s due process rights were violated.

          • Laurie K.

            Oh yes, you are correct, it was published.

  • Mike Worcester

    //The Court of Appeals agreed and threw out his 90-day DWI conviction and sent the case back to a lower court, where he could be sentenced for up to a year in prison for refusing the sobriety test.

    And this is a fair trade off how? (I ask somewhat facetiously but also seriously.)

    • The decision today didn’t say what sentence he originally got under implied consent. It only said he got 90 days for the DUI. So it may not be an upward departure from his original sentence.

      • Mike Worcester

        Ty!

    • tehren

      What disturbs me is that drunk driving is a lesser offense than test refusal. That seems backwards to me.

  • emersonpie

    Then there’s this guy, who was questioned but nothing came of it because it was a “wish” and not a “threat.”
    http://www.startribune.com/secret-service-probing-van-s-violent-vulgar-message-aimed-at-clinton-on-i-94/400721421/