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.