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How Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg and Justice Alito helped appellate court decide suburban case

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Hip-hop icons Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg probably don’t run in the same circles as U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, but the trio make unexpected cameos in a recent state appeals court decision upholding a suburban man’s conviction for threatening a judge.

First, the case: Aurora resident James L. Warren was charged in 2018 with threatening a public official, through Facebook posts and text messages, about the judge who was presiding over his contentious divorce case.

One Facebook post in particular caught the attention of authorities. In it, Warren wrote of Kane County Judge Rene Cruz, “187 wit my gat in yo mouth foo.” The number “187” is a reference to the murder section of the California penal code, and “gat” is slang for gun.

In another post, Warren said Cruz needs his “(behind) handed to him.” And in text messages, Warren wrote that Cruz “needs to be stopped … permanently” and that his family should be made to suffer.

A different judge found Warren guilty in 2020 and sentenced him to 20 days of work release and 24 months of probation.



James Warren, after he was charged in 2018


James Warren, after he was charged in 2018

In his appeal, Warren argues his remarks were protected free speech under the First Amendment, that he never intended for Cruz to see them and, regardless, they should have been taken in jest (after all, laughing emojis were involved).


        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        

 

Here’s where music legends Snoop and Dre come into play, along with conservative stalwart Alito.

Although neither prosecutors nor Warren’s defense mentioned it in appeal documents, Appellate Court Judge Susan Hutchinson — or perhaps a music-savvy clerk — caught on that the phrase “187 wit my gat in yo mouth foo” is a lyric from a Dre/Snoop Dogg collaboration on the classic 1992 album “The Chronic.”

As for what that means when it comes to Warren’s First Amendment rights, Hutchinson turned to Alito’s ruling in a U.S. Supreme Court case involving a Pennsylvania man who quoted hip-hop lyrics on social media to threaten his wife, co-workers, a kindergarten class, police and others.



In upholding the conviction of a suburban man accused of threatening a Kane County judge, a state appellate court relied on the ruling of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito in a similar case.


In upholding the conviction of a suburban man accused of threatening a Kane County judge, a state appellate court relied on the ruling of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito in a similar case.
– Associated Press

“Lyrics in songs that are performed for an audience or sold in recorded form are unlikely to be interpreted as a real threat to a real person,” Alito wrote in 2015. “Statements on social media that are pointedly directed at their victims, by contrast, are much more likely to be taken seriously. To hold otherwise would grant a license to anyone who is clever enough to dress up a real threat in the guise of rap lyrics, a parody, or something similar.”

        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        

 

In applying that logic to Warren’s case, Hutchison wrote, the Aurora man “made it a real threat to a real person.”

“The state presented sufficient evidence to convict, and defendant’s prosecution did not run afoul of the First Amendment,” she later added. “Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the circuit court of Kane County.”

Illinois ranks high for cops

We wrote at the end of 2021 about how police departments across the suburbs and state are struggling to fill open jobs, as more cops retire and fewer young people seem interested in law enforcement careers.

Perhaps this will help: According to a new study by the personal finance website WalletHub, Illinois is the third best state in the U.S. to work as a law enforcement officer.

The study compared the 50 states and District of Columbia across 30 indicators of police-friendliness, including median income, police deaths, training opportunities, and how much local and state governments spend to protect officers.

According to the findings, Illinois ranks first in median income (adjusted for cost of living) and eighth in both income growth and spending on police protection. The state places 22nd in police deaths per 1,000 officers.

Joining Illinois in the top five are Connecticut (first), California (second), D.C. (fourth) and Maryland (fifth).

The worst states, according to the report: Arkansas, Hawaii, Alaska, West Virginia and Mississippi.

To read the full report, visit wallethub.com/edu/best-states-to-be-a-cop/34669.

Congratulations

David Zdan has been promoted to chief of investigations for the DuPage County state’s attorney’s office. State’s Attorney Robert Berlin announced the move Thursday.

Zdan will replace Robert Guerrieri, who has retired. He will oversee 22 investigators, plus support workers.

Besides investigating crimes, his unit serves subpoenas, summonses and warrants, and prepares evidence, among other duties.

Zdan joined the office in 2013, after retiring from the Wheaton Police Department, where he worked for 28 years.

Nicholas Liberio has been promoted from special investigator to deputy chief. Liberio came to the office in 2017, after 33 years as a police officer. He started in Wood Dale and retired from the Naperville Police Department.

• Do you have a tip or a comment? Email us at copsandcrime@dailyherald.com

        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        



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