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YouTube video may lead to federal charges for Pittsburgh man

People in Pittsburgh who visit the online video site YouTube have probably watched many videos of everyday people giving their point of view on a topic. The subjects may range from politics to commenting on sports or personal matters. Perhaps readers have uploaded such a video themselves.

As with most public speech, self-produced YouTube videos are generally protected the by the First Amendment's right to free speech from government interference. But there are legal exceptions under which prosecutors can bring federal charges against people for what they say on the Internet.

In a local example, a Pittsburgh man was arrested on Dec. 11 for his alleged role in a video posted on YouTube in November. Police say that the video features two men threatening to kill police officers. The men also allegedly praise a man currently on death row for killing three Pittsburgh officers in 2009. Officers claim that the arrested man, who surrendered to police, was one of the men. He could face federal terrorism charges.

The man's attorney said that his client turned himself in to clear his name. He said the charges against his client are unclear by may be a charge of intimidation of a witness. The video was simply the suspect exercising his First Amendment rights and should not lead to criminal penalties, the attorney said.

Federal prosecutors aggressively go after those they believe are engaged in or contributing to terrorism. Anyone in the Pittsburgh area who is facing possible terrorism charges needs a criminal defense attorney to examine the evidence and build a viable defense.

Source: WPXI-TV, "Man accused of making online video threat against Pittsburgh police turns self in," Dec. 12, 2012

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