A 24-year-old man was convicted for making threats towards Pittsburgh police in a rap song he created and performed on YouTube. He continued to fight that conviction asking for the state Supreme Court to hear the case due to free speech rights.
That conviction has now been upheld by the highest court in Pennsylvania, despite the man’s attorney arguing it was “strictly artistic in nature.”
Jamal Knox was the man responsible for creating the song in 2012, titled ‘F—k the Police,’ per the Pittsburgh Post Gazette. The song was performed by Knox and a 26-year-old man Rashee Beasley, but the two men said they were not the ones who posted it to YouTube. Knox reportedly wrote the song after they were arrested on drug charges by two Pittsburgh police officers, Daniel Zeltner and Michael Kosko.
The title of the track is the same as the seminal N.W.A track from 1988, with one critical difference.
On the track, Knox and Beasley deliver graphic lyrics about killing these officers, as well as other police and “fed force agents” involved in going after drug dealers.
The video resulted in further charges of terroristic threats and witness intimidation, leading to a conviction.
Knox has already served his time for the charges but continued to appeal. After losing in Superior Court, the case was taken to Pennsylvania’s highest court for an appeal. Knox’s attorney argued that it was artistic in nature as “gangsta rap.” In addition, it was argued that the two men hadn’t intended the song to go on YouTube for others to hear.
Of course, there have been other songs in the genre that mention violence towards police, but these songs weren’t specific with their threats. According to Billboard, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court upheld the conviction on Tuesday (August 21st). The high court said that due to the fact the song was threatening to kill two specific police offers, it crossed a line from “abstraction to intimidation.” Therefore, it was not protected under free speech rights that other songs have been privy to.
Despite the argument that Knox and Beasley hadn’t intended the song to go public on YouTube, District Attorney Francesco Nepa argued that the law is to protect individuals who fear threats may be carried out. In this case, Nepa said both officers feared they might be “targeted for violence” once that song had been made public. In fact, one of the two officers claimed he left his job at the department partly because of the song.
Jamal Knox’s attorney did not provide any immediate comment following the court’s ruling.