Jun
11

Ted Taupier Didn't Threaten The Judge

Remind me next time I get a little ticked off about something a judge has done not to send an email to would-be supporters describing how one might sit outside the jurist's home, concealed, and fire a shot into a bedroom.

It just might get me arrested for breach of the peace; it ought not get me arrested for threatening.

Edward "Ted" Taupier is facing threatening charges in Middletown. He sent an email to a group of six folks about Judge Elizabeth Bozzuto's home, and a cemetery behind it, and a bullet. He never sent the email to the judge; he sent it to fellow travelers among aggrieved family court litigants.

One of the fellow travelers is on the high-strung side. She went to pieces, and started crying when she received it, or so she testified to in a recent trial. She felt bad that the writer was in so much pain. The email "scared" her and "disturbed" her, she testified. She shared the email with her lawyer, who shared it with others.

Just how the state perceives this email to be a threat to anyone is beyond my comprehension. The speech is certainly ugly, even irresponsible, but if there is a specific intent to cause alarm or harm to Judge Bozzuto in the email, I can't see it.

Taupier wisely chose to have his case tried to the court, rather than a jury, a smart decision when bad facts might tempt undisciplined fact finders to vote with their hearts and not their heads. He is lucky to have as the case's fact finder Superior Court Judge David P. Gold, who is smart as a whip.

The parties were set to give closing arguments the other day, when the U.S. Supreme Court decided the Elonis case. In that case, the defendant was convicted by a jury after engaging in intemperate speech on Facebook about his ex-wife, schoolchildren, the FBI and others. Elonis and Taupier ought to co-host a show on rage radio.

Gold gave Taupier's lawyer additional time to brief what impact, if any, Elonis will have on the Connecticut case: just why he did that is hard to say.

The issue in Elonis was the propriety of a jury charge instructing jurors to consider the impact of the defendant's speech from the standpoint of how a reasonable person would regard it. The Supreme Court rejected that standard, noting that an intent to threaten must be read into the federal threatening statute. In other words, the government must prove the threatening intention of the defendant, not how others regarded his words.

Connecticut's law on threatening already required proof of specific intent. Gold doesn't need additional briefs on Elonis to tell him that.

There's little doubt that the state failed to prove Taupier guilty of threatening. His reckless bluster among folks he thought were friends and fellow travelers cannot be construed as an intent to threaten the judge. No evidence suggests that he intended, or foresaw, that anyone would forward the email to Judge Bozzuto.

But will Taupier be found guilty of disorderly conduct or breach of the peace for sending his incendiary missive to others? That's a closer question. It would not surprise me to see a split verdict, with an acquittal on the charge of threatening and a conviction on disorderly conduct.

Such a verdict will no doubt yield an appeal and an assessment of just what was on Taupier's mind when he sent his sniper's fantasy to a selected audience.

What an unfortunate and unseemly mess this case has become. I cannot fathom why the state thought it needed to be tried. What next, a noise complaint over that tree falling in the woods with no one nearby to hear it?

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About Norm Pattis

Norm Pattis is a Connecticut based trial lawyer focused on high stakes criminal cases and civil right violations. He is a veteran of more than 100 jury trials, many resulting in acquittals for people charged with serious crimes, multi-million dollar civil rights and discrimination verdicts, and scores of cases favorably settled.

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I believe that the state is a necessary fiction and that failing to combat it is the first step toward tyranny.
– Norm Pattis

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Nothing in this blog should be considered legal advice about your case. You need a lawyer who understands the context of your life and situation. What are offered here are merely suggested lines of inquiry you may explore with your lawyer.

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