Wandering Eye: Online threats head to the Supreme Court, Batts appointed to White House task force, and more

HBO has "probably 160 lawyers" vetting an in-the-works documentary that probes the Church of Scientology, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The film, by Oscar winner Alex Gibney and based on Lawrence Wright's 2013 book, "Going Clear," will tell Wright's "story of physical abuse and imprisonment within the church," THR reports, and is likely to incite protests, which Scientologists often stage in response to discourse that's critical of their controversial belief system. But when the leadersless hacker collective Anonymous in 2008 launched Project Chanology, a multi-pronged attack on Scientology, the church fought back to little effect, as has happened in its occasional attempts to scrub from the internet jokes that poke it in the ribs. This HBO project, though, is no joke: Gibney's take on Wright's reporting about the Scientology's dark side, thanks in part to the eyes of 160 lawyers, will surely be serious business. (Van Smith)

 

Threats online, and the degree to which police and prosecutors can use them in court, is the subject of a U.S. Supreme Court case heard on Monday, according to SCOTUS blog. Anthony Elonis began writing a series of violent posts on Facebook after his wife and kids left in 2010. As the New York Times Editorial Board describes it, Elonis' posts were interesting: "I'm not gonna rest until your body is a mess, soaked in blood and dying from all the little cuts," he wrote. The FBI sent an agent by to check on him, and Elonis wrote some unkind words about him as well, the Times reports. He also had posts about killing his co-workers. Elonis was arrested, tried, and convicted under a federal law that prohibits interstate-transmitted threats. He got four years. But as Baltimoreans familiar with such local personages as blogger The Baltimore Spectator and rapper Young Moose know, it's not always an easy call to say whether a perceived threat is a real threat. Hence the appeals. As The Times says, "Mr. Elonis maintains that he never intended to threaten anyone, and that his posts were merely a 'therapeutic' way to work out his anger and sadness over the end of his marriage. He also said he was an aspiring rapper and that his posts were nothing more than 'fictitious lyrics.'" The question for the court is whether prosecutors must prove the suspect intended his words as a threat. This should be interesting. (Edward Ericson Jr.)

 

There's no story up yet to confirm or give further details, but according to a tweet from Mike Schuh at WJZ, who was at a meeting today for Baltimore's body camera working group, Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony Batts was "asked by Obama to be on TaskForce to improve policing in response to #Ferguson." We assume he's talking about the "Task Force on 21st Century Policing," which the White House announced yesterday and will be chaired by Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey and Laurie Robinson, a professor of criminology, law, and society at George Mason University. The task force will include law enforcement and "community leaders," whatever that means, and is meant "to promote expansion of the community-oriented policing model, which encourages strong relationships between law enforcement and the communities that they serve as a proven method of fighting crime." There is, of course, a great irony here. Sure, we wrote that Commissioner Batts and the police department handled the Ferguson protests relatively well last week, but maybe the White House hasn't heard about how frequently Baltimore police officers face lawsuits for police brutality. (Anna Walsh)

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