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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

(Note: A friend asked why the government failed to take against Nakoula Bessely Nakoula for his hate film “Innocence of Muslims.” We talked about the prevalence of hate speech in the world today and I told her I would give the problem some more thought. Here is the results.

Federal prosecutors should give serious consideration to filing felony hate crime and homicide complaints against Nakoula Bessely Nakoula for his alleged role in the killing of Ambassador Chris Stevens, information manager Sean Smith and former Navy SEALs Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty.

Nakoula's amateurish movie “Innocence of Muslims,” slandered the prophet Muhammad and allegedly triggered protests at several U.S. government buildings in the Middle East, including the embassy in Benghazi where the Americans were killed. Additional charges should be filed for every additional Americans killed as a result of the hate-filled movie.

Hate crimes from, lynchings to cross burnings to vandalism of synagogues and mosques, have a long shameful history in the United States, and with advent of social media, hate filled messages can now spread from continent-to-continent at light-speed.

Nakoula did not directly kill the Americans, but the U.S. law of homicide applies when death results from any act by a person who shows a wanton and willful disregard for the risk to humans. Even if the actual killing was done by terrorists, under cover of the demonstrations, the case could be made that the terrorists were the instruments of Nakoula's disregard for the human risk.

If Nakoula's actions were considered a hate-crime felony and the homicides occurred during the commission of that felony, then the crime falls under the felony murder rule. That rule says that anyone committing a felony may be guilty of murder if someone dies as a result of his acts, regardless his intent (or lack thereof) to kill. It would be an interesting point of law if an American (Nakoula in this case) could instigate a criminal act in the United States that kills Americans in a American property (the Embassy) in another country.

I certainly don't know the answer but the law of murder does cover situations where an act is committed in one state but the victim dies in another. Of course, this is all speculation but the United States government needs to act aggressively to stop people from acting in such a reckless manner.

I am obviously a big advocate of freedom of speech in any media format. But, I also recognize that the right is not absolute in any country and it is commonly limited through libel, slander, copyright violations and incitements to commit a crime. The right to transmit information carries with it special duties and responsibilities including respect for a persons reputation, protection of national security and public health.

I realize that hate speech is used against Americans in foreign countries. One can only hope that authorities in those countries would act legally and responsibly and in a manner consistent with both the protection of speech and a recognition of its limitations.

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