For release on January 8, 2015 CONTACT: Luis Ramos, Supervising Deputy District Attorney Central Felonies Unit (408) 792-2793 DA: SJPD OFFICER’S TWEETS TROUBLING, NOT CRIMINAL The Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office has determined that controversial social media messages posted publicly by a San Jose police officer were not criminal in nature. Sent out on Twitter late last year, the messages did not threaten specific individuals, a prosecutorial review concluded. “The officer’s ‘Tweets’ were inappropriate and unprofessional,” District Attorney Jeff Rosen said. “Communicating something disturbing is not a crime, unless it is an intentional and specifically-aimed threat. Civil communication between the police and members of the public is important in establishing and maintaining trust. We all share the priority of keeping our community safe from criminals." In early December, Officer Phillip White sent a series of messages using his private Twitter account, expressing displeasure at the property damage that came in the wake of grand jury decisions following the events in Ferguson, Missouri and the death of Eric Garner in New York. White then received numerous vitriolic responses, some of them using slurs and threats, posted on Twitter and left on his phone voice-mail at Menlo College, where he was a basketball coach at the time. On December 14, 2014, White responded to these perceived threats by posting the following Twitter messages: “Threaten me or my family and I will use my God given and law appointed right and duty to kill you. #CopsLivesMatter,” and “By the way if anyone feels they can’t breathe or their lives matter I’ll be at the movies tonight off duty carrying my gun.” An investigation failed to find anyone who specifically felt threatened by the White’s tweets, including those who had initially sent inflamed responses to White’s initial Tweets. A violation of Penal Code § 422 (Criminal Threats) requires a prosecutor to prove beyond a reasonable doubt the following:
• The defendant willfully threatened to unlawfully kill or cause great bodily injury to another; • The defendant intended the statement be understood as a threat; • The threat was clear, immediate, unconditional and specific; • The threat has to cause another to be in sustained fear for their own safety or that of their immediate family; • And the fear was reasonable under the circumstances.