A series of angry email messages to a U.S. Senator has landed a man in jail, possibly because he didn't sign them with his correct name or location.
Bruce Shore, who is from Philadelphia, sent email to Senator Jim Bunning, of Kentucky, after the Senator complained on the Senate floor that he'd missed the Kentucky-South Carolina basketball game because of a debate on extending unemployment benefits -- a debate the Kentucky Republican himself prevented from proceeding to a vote, according to an article in the Huffington Post.
Shore was angry because he has been unemployed for two years and had recently lost his unemployment benefits, so he wrote email to Bunning. However, he signed it "Brad Shore" and said he was from Louisville, because he thought the Senator would pay more attention if he thought he was a constituent, the Huffington Post article quoted him as saying.
Bunning's office -- which reportedly received a great deal of email on the issue -- turned some of it over to Capitol Police, which charged Shore under a federal statute about harassing email and not disclosing identity. It is not clear whether he is being cited for harassment, not disclosing his identity, or both. (Shore's isn't the only Bunning case under investigation by the Capitol Police, according to an article in a Kentucky newspaper.)
The text of the email included the following, in all capital letters: "If this political grandstanding does not end today -- we will come to your offices and make our point. You are playing a life and death game here. Do you get it." Shore had also committed a series of more than 30 burglaries in the 1990s, newspaper accounts report.
Conservatives such as Nat Hentoff and Bob Bauman are using the case to attack the federal government. "This case should also be a constitutional test of anonymous First Amendment speech," wrote Hentoff. "This dragnet federal statute, without protest from Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder, states that if you intend to "annoy" or "harass any person" by exercising speech, you will be hauled into court."
On the other hand -- to the extent that it matters -- Hentoff and Bauman left out Shore's previous criminal history, his use of a false name and location, or the potentially threatening text cited above, any or all of which might have been factors in the indictment.
Shore has pleaded not guilty to the charge, which carries a sentence of up to two years in prison and a $250,000 maximum fine, according to a followup Huffington Post piece.
Surprisingly, neither the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the American Civil Liberties Union, nor the Electronic Privacy Information Center appears to have yet weighed in on the case.