Prosecutor: Facebook post threatened police officer, family



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BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A southwest Idaho man authorities say threatened a Meridian police officer and his family with a post made on Facebook has been charged with felony witness intimidation.

The Idaho Statesman reports (http://bit.ly/1Ekk0Oq) in a story on Thursday that 29-year-old Matthew Townsend was charged last month in 4th District Court.

Authorities say Meridian Police Cpl. Richard Brockbank on Jan. 30 arrested Townsend on a charge of resisting and obstructing officers. Brockbank reported observing Townsend block traffic in a crosswalk while dressed as the Grim Reaper during a protest about taxes.

In a March 18 Facebook post, Townsend gave authorities three options, the first a demand that the charges be dropped.

"I know where you all live — this is notification of knowledge and future protests, not a threat," he wrote.

Other options, he wrote were to "Endure my non-violent retaliation (do you want to be the focus of my rage?)" and "Kill me and deal with those that know, love and care about me."

Townsend is scheduled to appear in court May 15 to enter a plea.

His attorney, Aaron Tribble, said Townsend didn't break the law with the posts.

"You have a right to complain about public officials when you think they're doing something wrong or corrupt," Tribble said. "He didn't make any kind of physical threat. He didn't say, 'I'm going to hurt you, I'm going to hurt your family.' ... If you wanted to threaten someone physically, why would you go around tagging news stations?"

Tagging on Facebook is a way to make posts more likely to be seen by specific people. Townsend tagged the post to the Meridian Police Department, Brockbank's family members, Meridian Mayor Tammy de Weerd, news outlets and others.

"We all want to be safe and secure in our homes," Brockbank testified at a hearing in April. "Someone telling me that they know where I live in an adversarial manner like this, I view that as a threatening statement."

If convicted of felony intimidation, Townsend faces a fine of up to $50,000 and five years in prison.

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Information from: Idaho Statesman, http://www.idahostatesman.com

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The Associated Press

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