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Men who publicly praised Sept. 11 attacks to face charges

By The Associated Press


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NEW YORK — Judges in two separate cases have rejected the free-speech claims of defendants arrested on disorderly conduct charges after police said they publicly praised the World Trade Center attacks.

Judges William Harrington and Neil Ross of Manhattan Criminal Court refused to dismiss charges filed against defendants Reggie Upshaw and William Harvey.

Harrington's decision, made public March 29, dealt with charges of disorderly conduct and inciting to riot against Upshaw. Upshaw allegedly praised the attacks to a crowd of about 50 people near Times Square a few days after Sept. 11.

Harrington quoted Upshaw as saying, "It's good that the World Trade Center was bombed. More cops and firemen should have died. More bombs should have been dropped and more people should have been killed."

Harrington wrote that Upshaw claimed his language was, "of a political nature, intended to spur debate and thought, not to create the type of public harm contemplated by the statute."

Harrington disagreed, saying the words, "were plainly intended to incite the crowd to violence, and not simply to express a point of view."

"The talismanic phrase 'freedom of speech' does not cloak all utterances in legality," the judge wrote.

An earlier decision by Ross involved Harvey, who was arrested Oct. 4 near the trade center ruins after he allegedly said the Sept. 11 attacks were revenge for U.S. treatment of Islamic nations.

Dressed in military fatigues and holding a sign with Osama bin Laden's face superimposed over the twin towers, Harvey attracted a lunchtime crowd of about 60 people, some of whom threatened to kill him, police said.

Detective Nemesio Rodriguez, who arrested Harvey, alleged in a court complaint that the defendant essentially stated that, "America is getting paid back for what it's doing to Islamic countries."

In a February decision, Ross said that because of the time and place of the speech, it is reasonable to infer that Harvey knew "that public inconvenience, annoyance and alarm would result."

New York Civil Liberties Union director Donna Lieberman said Ross' decision should not be allowed to stand. She said police, instead of arresting Harvey, should have protected him from those who were trying to stop him from expressing himself.

First Amendment expert Floyd Abrams said the defendants were expressing "political advocacy, detestable to almost all of us, but protected nonetheless."

"I find disturbing the notion that people can be jailed for reasons that bear on the content of what they are saying," Abrams said.