‘Terrorist Threats’ Covered by CA Penal Code Sec. 422 by Erik Larson [updated 1/1/2011]

Update January 1, 2001 – October 31, 2010,  I posted the following comment on an update and appeal for funds which Bruno Bruhwiler posted at 911Blogger. As of today, Bruno has not responded, though he left a comment following mine:


Bruno, I get the part where you say Espinoza told you, “You just threatened to assassinate me! That’s a terrorist threat!”

According to the Complaint filed by the prosecutor in your case, you were charged under Section 422 of the California Penal Code with making “criminal threats.” http://www.scribd.com/doc/40548000

You’ve acknowledged in this post, “Though the code does not read ‘terrorism’ or ‘terrorist threat’, this is the code used when someone in California is charged with making a terrorist threat.”

Sec. 422 used to make reference to “terrorist threats;” the Code was revised after a 1987 court ruling that the language was unconstitutionally vague. The references to “terrorist threats” have continued to be applied however:
“Amendments to the Three Strikes Law, enacted in 2000 by initiative as part of Proposition 21, added “terrorist threats, in violation of section 422” to the list of serious felonies.”
“Given this history, it is not surprising that from 1987 until recently, case law has continued to refer to violations of section 422 as “terrorist threats,” even though the body of the statute has not referenced terror, terrorists, terrorism or social or political goals since the statute was found unconstitutional and repealed in 1987.”

Bruno, if you were being prosecuted as a “terrorist,” which is the impression I’ve gotten from your description of things, you would be prosecuted under federal laws. It doesn’t seem, from what I’ve looked at, that a cop saying you’d made a “terrorist threat” makes the offense any more serious.

What have your lawyers told you about this?

And what did Espinoza testify at the Oct 26 preliminary hearing, about what he heard you say to him, that he considered threatening? That’s a public record, but I don’t have a copy yet.

You’ve been charged w/ a serious crime. Assuming you’re entirely innocent on the threat and other charges- that the cops have simply been lying and abusing their power- I hope you’re acquitted of all of them, and I wish you the best in fighting these charges in court.

For the record, I’m the one who wrote the article that said Bruno wasn’t charged w/ terrorism; my retraction is here:

Retraction posted June 28, 2010:

I’m retracting the article originally posted here as it has been brought to my attention that threats prosecuted under Section 422 of the California Penal Code are sometimes referred to as “terrorist threats.”

As Bruno Bruhwiler said in a comment at 911blogger after he was made aware of my article: “It took me less than a minute to Google ‘Terrorist Threat’ and ‘California Penal Code’ and I found Penal Code 422. Terrorist Threat and Criminal Threat both fall under California Penal Code 422.” http://911blogger.com/news/2010-06-15/wearechangela-organizer-faces-terrorism-charge#comment-233921

Google is a tool I should have used before posting my article. I apologize to anyone who relied on it, and particularly to Bruhwiler and his associates, as my article implied they may have committed wire fraud by saying he had been charged with making a “terrorist threat.” Assuming Bruhwiler is committed to non-violent activism and that the charges against him are baseless, I wish him the best of luck in fighting them in the court system, and for being recompensed for any injustices and mistreatment he may have suffered in the LA penal system.

A google search for ‘Terrorist Threat’ and ‘California Penal Code’ gets the below as the top three hits: https://www.google.com/search?hl=en&source=hp&q=%27Terrorist+Threat%27+and+%27California+Penal+Code%27&btnG=Google+Search&aq=f&aqi=&aql=&oq=&gs_rfai=

“In California, Terrorist or Criminal Threats are Illegal. A terrorist or criminal threat is a threat of violence, threat to hurt, injure or kill others with the intent of intimidating or frightening them, or causing public panic. Examples of terrorist or criminal threats include:… Threatening harm or injury to a neighbor” http://www.lacriminaldefenseattorney.com/criminalthreats.html

“Section 422 of the California Penal Code makes it illegal to make criminal threats (formerly called ‘terrorist threats’)”. http://www.shouselaw.com/criminal_threats.html

“Despite its name, the crime of terrorist threats does not necessarily implicate al Qaeda or other terrorist organizations for their inflammatory speech or their attempts at political blackmail. Instead, the offense has more to do with situations involving domestic violence, hate crimes, bomb threats, and school violence. The question presented as to when is a threat actually a violation of the criminal law presents a tension between an individuals free-speech rights and the government’s duty to protect its citizens.” http://www.criminalattorney.com/news/terrorist-threats/

It does not excuse the fact that my research should have been more thorough, but so that the public can understand why I was led to believe that referring to a charge under Sec. 422 was being improperly characterized as a “terrorist threat,” (which I had associated with the “post-9/11 world”, the “war on terror”, indefinite detention, rendition, Guantanamo, Bagram Air Base, etc.), here’s the text of the code:


422. Any person who willfully threatens to commit a crime which will result in death or great bodily injury to another person, with the specific intent that the statement, made verbally, in writing, or by means of an electronic communication device, is to be taken as a threat, even if there is no intent of actually carrying it out, which, on its face and under the circumstances in which it is made, is so unequivocal, unconditional, immediate, and specific as to convey to the person threatened, a gravity of purpose and an immediate prospect of execution of the threat, and thereby causes that person reasonably to be in sustained fear for his or her own safety or for his or her immediate family’s safety, shall be punished by imprisonment in the county jail not to exceed one year, or by imprisonment in the state prison. For the purposes of this section, “immediate family” means any spouse, whether by marriage or not, parent, child, any person related by consanguinity or affinity within the second degree, or any other person who regularly resides in the household, or who, within the prior six months, regularly resided in the household. “Electronic communication device” includes, but is not limited to, telephones, cellular telephones, computers, video recorders, fax machines, or pagers. “Electronic communication” has the same meaning as the term defined in Subsection 12 of Section 2510 of Title 18 of the United States Code. http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/cgi-bin/waisgate?WAISdocID=00055010631+7+0+0&WAISaction=retrieve

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