STATE v. MICHAEL PELELLA, SC 19760

Judicial District of Danbury

 

       Criminal; Free Speech; Whether a Statement Must Threaten Imminent Violence to Constitute a True Threat.  The defendant was charged with threatening in the second degree in violation of General Statutes §§ 53a-62 (a) (2) and 53a-62 (a) (3) after police responded to a domestic disturbance involving the defendant, his mother and his brother.  The state alleged that the defendant had threatened his brother when he told him “if you go into the attic, I will hurt you.”  The defendant moved that the charges be dismissed pursuant to General Statutes § 54-56, which allows the court to dismiss an information if it determines that there is insufficient evidence to justify further prosecution.  The defendant argued that, because his statement to his brother did not constitute a “true threat,” it was constitutionally protected free speech and not punishable.  The trial court dismissed the charges, finding that the state would be unable to sustain its burden of establishing that the defendant’s statement constituted a true threat.  The state appeals, claiming that the trial court wrongly determined that the defendant’s statement could not constitute a true threat unless it threatened imminent violence and wrongly determined that the defendant’s “conditional” threat to hurt his brother only if he moved to the attic did not threaten imminent violence.  The state also contends that the trial court erred in failing to view the evidence most favorably to the state in ruling on the § 54-56 motion to dismiss and that here the question of whether the defendant’s statement to his brother constituted a punishable true threat should have been left to a jury.