"Attempted Threat" Crimes and Oduwole
Falkoff, Marc D.
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Last month, an appellate court reversed the conviction of Olutosin Oduwole — a former Southern Illinois University student and aspiring rap artist — for an “attempt to make a terroristic threat” (People v. Oduwole, __ N.E.2d __, 2013 WL 885173 (Ill. App. 5th Dist., March 6, 2013)). The case became a cause célèbre in the blogosphere when Illinois Attorney General Lisa M. Madigan announced she would appeal the decision to the Illinois Supreme Court. The notion circulating on the Internet is that Oduwole is being victimized by overzealous prosecutors who are persecuting him for no more than drafting provocative song lyrics. But the idea that First Amendment values are at stake in the case is misconceived. The case merits our attention not because prosecutors credulously equated song lyrics with weapons of mass destruction, but rather because Oduwole’s prosecution threatens to stretch the law of attempt in Illinois beyond reasonable bounds, by punishing conduct — an “attempted threat” — even when that conduct holds no real possibility of bringing about an imminent social harm.