Watch what you say about the police, because the Pennsylvania Supreme Court upheld a rapper’s conviction. According to the court, the lyrics threatening specific police officers are not protected by the first amendment,” AP reports.
At issue is a rap video on YouTube called “F**k the Police,” by rapper Jamal Knox (rap name Mayhem Mal of the Ghetto Superstar Committee), made in 2012 that directly named two officers, Daniel Zeltner and Michael Kosko, and included photos of the cops. The song also referenced Richard Poplawski, a man on death row for killing three Pittsburgh police officers.
Knox and his friend Rashee Beasley uploaded the video to a YouTube and a public Facebook page while they had pending drug and weapons charges as a result of being arrested by the two officers named in the song.
Once the video was released, they were charged with terroristic threats and intimidation.
In one of the lyrics, they rap: “Let’s kill these cops ’cause they don’t do us no good.”
While free speech is protected by the Constitution, on Tuesday, the court determined that Knox’s song was “threatening” to police and “highly personalized” and therefore is not protected.
In 2014, Knox who was sentenced to three to six years in prison. Beasley was sentenced to one to three years.
The Court’s Reasoning
Even though N.W.A’s 1988 classic “F**k Tha Police,” was filled with violent lyrics, there wasn’t a target on the back of any particular cop.
According to Billboard Knox claimed, “The song was strictly artistic in nature, and he didn’t intend to threaten police or have the video released publicly.”
“In this way, the lyrics are both threatening and highly personalized to the victims,” wrote Chief Justice Thomas Saylor. Knox also pledged in the song to “where you sleep,” and there’s a line that says “I got my Glock and best believe dog gonna bring the pump out and I’m hittin’ your chest.”
“In many instances, lyrics along such lines cannot reasonably be understood as a sincere expression of the singer’s intent to engage in real-world violence,” Saylor wrote, but added the song by Knox and Beasley “is of a different nature and quality,” he maintained.
The video was deleted from YouTube in 2014.