Minnesota Statute 609.713 defines a "Terroristic Threat" as threatening violence with the purpose to terrorize another person. After Mitchel Pieper of Burnsville, MN, tried to run over a bicyclist with his pickup truck and then came at the cyclist with an ax, Peiper was charged with making "terroristic threats" (a felony) against the cyclist.
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Very logically speaking, I *don't* think road rage is the same as a terrorist threat (which tends to be a function of that deeper hatred thing, and the relationship between rage & hate would be its own exploration). However, logic isn't the rule of the day when it comes to defining threats. I feel a heartfelt HUZZAH at the idea that people need to be held responsible for their actions behind the wheel (and when they leap out) and that road rage is inexcusable.
I'm definitely of the the opinion that this falls outside what I would consider the definition of terrorism. I've always thought that terrorism was at least in part defined as trying to intimidate a mass or large group of people. This is just a couple of rednecks in a trailer park losing their sh*t.
Yep, it doesn't take a Bruce Schneier to see that this is not terrorism, although we all want to see nuts like this prosecuted. He should lose his license. Maybe I'll even reconsider waterboarding when you're talking about threats to cyclists. ;-)
I don't think terrorism is the appropriate charge. "Assault with a deadly weapon" sounds pretty good, but people probably will only consider the axe and not the more deadly weapon (truck) initially used.
I would think that terrorism is violence or the threat of violence in pursuit of a political end. Terrorizing someone, however, is using violence or the threat of violence to produce some change in that individual's behavior. Is that perhaps too subtle a difference? Maybe we need to differentiate with a capital letter. Big T Terrorism = violence + politics. Little t terrorism = violence + individual
A "terroristic threat" is a pretty old legal term that long predates our usage of political "terrorism" that became popular in the last 20 years or so.
For instance, in one jusrisdiction it includes "an offense against property or involving danger to another person that may include but is not limited to recklessly endangering another person, harassment, stalking, ethnic intimidation, and criminal mischief."
I'd say this whole discussion is based on a misunderstanding of language. Different professions use words in very precise ways that might not match up with common usage.
I think Pete is right on and I left a comment on Schneier's blog to that effect. The "terroristic threat" statute in Minnesota dates back to 1971, and I suspect the local attorney chose that charge because he thought he could get a conviction for it.
Sioux, for example, knows of at least one instance in Illinois where the local attorney declined to press charges against a driver because she didn't believe she could get a conviction based on current Illinois law.
Is this violence only directed at an individual, or is it also meant to intimidate cyclists as a group? Might this be a political intent/effect much like the more 'traditional' uses of the word terrorism?
Doesn't terroristic threat as a statute harken from before the time of al qaeda, hezbollah, and the current religous extremists we envision when we hear that word? I know in Cali, terrorist threats are now statutorily called criminal threats.
Watch out for a bright red late model Ford F150 "Lightning" sport pick-up on Old La Honda Rd. It chased me today after speeding uphill and leaning out screaming that the road was for locals only, and I made the mistake of verbally flipping him the bird. When I called 911 and told them I was hiding in bushes after a truck made a violent u-turn to follow me (drove back and forth searching), the dispatcher asked, "How exactly did the driver threaten you?"
If someone walks by you on the sidewalk and you are minding your p's and q's and this person shouts that this sidewalk isn't for you, and you tell him to "F*** you!" and keep moving away. Doesn't the fact that this person starts chasing you imply a physical threat?
Road-rage in a car is assault with a deadly weapon!
My take: Terrorism has too much linguistic baggage to apply to specific acts of violence against cyclists, although in general cyclists do feel terrorized by drivers. Instead, the legal system needs expanded definitions and laws to help protect cyclists, as legislation citing vehicular assault, 3-feet-please and other mechanisms can do. More on my blog: http://bikeintelligencer.wordpress.com/2009/08/20/terrorism-cyclists-dont-need-t-word-to-combat-animosity/