7th Circuit affirms conviction of man who threatened to blow up courthouse on social media

A man who wrote a Facebook post threatening to blow up an Indiana courthouse and kill several judicial and law enforcement officials cannot have his sentence overturned on the basis of the jury instruction, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals said Thursday, because the instruction adequately described the man’s actions.

In United States of America v. Samuel L. Bradbury, 16-1532, Jerad and Amanda Miller shot and killed two police officers and one civilian in Las Vegas in June 2014. After the two shooters died in an ensuing shoot-out with police, Samuel Bradbury, a resident of the Millers’ hometown of Lafayette, posted a message on Facebook saying he was the leader of the cop-killing group known as 765 Anarchists, which he claimed the Millers were part of.

Further, Bradbury wrote that the 765 Anarchists’ greater plan was to kill police officers in the Lafayette area, specifically West Lafayette Police Department Office Troy Green and Tippecanoe County Sheriff Tracy Brown, and to “incinerate and destroy no less than six police cars, as well as the Tippecanoe County Courthouse,” including the office of then-Judge Loretta Rush, whom he mentioned by name. However, Bradbury then wrote in the comments of the post that his words were meant to be read as satire.

A screenshot of the later-deleted post was sent to police, and a subsequent warranted search of his bedroom in his parents’ home revealed thermite, ingredients to make more thermite, and magnesium, which can be used to ignite thermite and ultimately cause a great deal of damage.

Bradbury was indicted on federal charges of threatening to use explosive materials to kill law enforcement officers and state court judges and destroy a courthouse and police vehicles. However, a superseding indictment changed the charges to “willfully mak(ing) any threat” and “maliciously convey(ing) false information.” A jury acquitted Bradbury on the first charge but convicted him on the second, resulting in his sentence of 41 months in prison followed by two years of supervised release.

During jury instructions, Judge Philp P. Simon of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana instructed the jury that “maliciously” meant “to act intentionally or with deliberate disregard of the likelihood that damage or injury will result.” On appeal to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, Bradbury argued Simon’s definition of malicious allowed the jury to convict him for merely posting the message, even if he didn’t intend the post to cause harm.

However, Judge Richard Posner, writing for the 7th Circuit panel, said Thursday that making a threat is both intentional and malicious even if the person making the threat does not actually intend to carry the threat out.

“And that is how the government argued the case to the jury – that Bradbury should be convicted because he had conducted an elaborate, detailed and malicious hoax, intending the disruptive effects that resulted from his threat, even though it wasn’t carried out, to blow up a courthouse and kill several named judges and law enforcement officers,” Posner wrote in the unanimous opinion.

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