Editor’s note: Robert Rich of South Burlington wrote this ‘open letter’ to Sen Richard Sears, co-sponsor of S265, which would impose a prison sentence of up to five years for threatening serious injury or death to public officials and others, as reported in yesterday’s Vermont Daily Chronicle.
Dear Sen. Sears:
Since laws already exist that prohibit threatening the life of any citizen, the real purpose of S265 seems clear – to discourage citizens from exercising their right to free speech under the First Amendment. Further, it is difficult not to believe S265 is merely a transparent scheme to intimidate citizens into silence and compliance. Perhaps you are not aware of how authoritarian your effort appears to those outside the legislative bubble.
Therefore, in the spirit of S265 I would like to ask the following. Would you be willing to author legislation that would provide prison terms for legislators and other government officials who under false pretense willingly threaten the freedoms and liberties of law-abiding Vermonters? It would seem such a measure is as appropriate as the one you are promoting.
Lastly I would note there is an inherent danger in S265 posed by government officials (i.e. Jim Condos) who are unable to distinguish between a threat and someone merely expressing an opinion they do not like.