United States v. Baker

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United States v. Baker
US-CourtOfAppeals-6thCircuit-Seal.png
Court United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
Full case name United States of America v. Abraham Jacob Alkhabaz, also known as Jake Baker
Decided January 29, 1997
Citation(s) 104 F.3d 1492
Case history
Prior action(s) Case dismissed by the United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
Case opinions
Majority: Chief Judge Boyce F. Martin, Jr.
Dissent: Circuit Judge Robert B. Krupansky

United States v. Baker was a case brought against University of Michigan undergraduate Jake Baker related to several incidents regarding snuff stories that he wrote while he was a student at the University of Michigan. Baker was charged with violation of 18 U.S.C. s 875(c), communicating via interstate or foreign commerce threats to kidnap or injure another person. The case raised immediate First Amendment concerns and is considered an important one in the history of cyber law.

Background[edit]

Jake Baker (born March 1974;[1] given name Abraham Jacob Alkhabaz) was a student at the University of Michigan College for Literature, Science, and Arts.

In October 1994, Jake Baker started submitting pornographic stories depicting fantasies of rape, torture, and murder to the alt.sex.stories Usenet group. On January 9, 1995, Baker submitted a story to alt.sex.stories detailing a fantasy about the rape, torture, and murder of one of his classmates, "Jane Doe." The victim wishes not to be named as this has affected her life in many harmful ways. Baker's story was brought to the attention of University of Michigan authorities and he was arrested, determined to be a threat to the subject of his story as well as the rest of the student population.

During the serving of a search warrant upon Baker's computer, University of Michigan police found several stories depicting rape, torture, and murder genre favored by Baker. They also found emails to a Canadian by the name of Arthur Gonda, depicting rape, torture, and murder. Their communications also began detailing a plan for the two men to meet and engage in a real-life depiction of their fantasies to rape, torture, and murder.

This was the basis for Baker's arrest by the FBI and charging him with six counts of communicating via interstate or foreign commerce threats to kidnap or injure another person. Five of the counts were determined by emails between Baker and Gonda. The sixth count was determined from the story about "Jane Doe."

Bail hearing[edit]

Initially, Baker was refused bail, being determined to be a threat to society, and to "Jane Doe". Finally, Baker was released on a $10,000 bond on March 9, 1995.

Case resolution[edit]

One of the counts - communicating a threat by publishing the story about "Jane Doe" on the Internet - was dropped against Baker. Finally, on June 21, 1995, the case against Baker was dismissed by Judge Avern Cohn due to lack of evidence that Baker would actually act out his fantasies. The Government appealed this decision, and on January 29, 1997, the 6th U.S. Court of Appeals upheld the decision of the lower court. Jake Baker remains free to this day.

Baker was not prosecuted for the violation of obscenity, but he was prosecuted for six counts of communicating a threat over interstate lines. The FBI started the investigation into Baker at the request of University of Michigan authorities. Since the Internet is considered a form of interstate commerce under United States Code, the FBI recommended that Baker be charged with these crimes.

Controversy[edit]

Free speech advocates state that the Government violated Jake Baker's First Amendment right to free speech by charging him with a crime for writing stories. Others defended the Government's case by stating that Baker's stories were filth, snuff, and that Baker was intending to act on them.

Baker stated that his stories were created as a form of therapy - so that he could act out his anger in a "harmless", legal way. Baker also stated that he was role playing within his emails to Gonda, and that he did not intend to act on his fantasies.

This case was not only about obscenity and threats, but it was being watched by Internet advocates, namely that his stories were published over a wide medium, and that since the Internet is a medium beyond borders, that state even federal level laws were not able to be applied to it. Baker was charged with communicating a threat over interstate lines - a charge that may have not been able to hold, other than the fact that Baker published his stories and corresponded over the Internet.

It has also been said that this case set a precedent for free speech on the Internet.

Timeline[edit]

  • January 20, 1995 - DPS officers contact Baker. Baker waives his Miranda rights and admits to writing and posting the stories. DPS officers search Baker's room and account with his permission, finding an unpublished story and the e-mail conversations.
  • February 2, 1995 - University President Duderstadt suspends Baker on the grounds that he is an immediate threat to the woman named in his story.
  • February 9, 1995 - FBI arrests Baker on basis of his stories and e-mail to Gonda. Bail is denied on the belief that he is too dangerous to release, as determined by a judge. Baker charged with violating 18 U.S.C. s 875(c).
  • February 10, 1995 - After a detention hearing, Baker is again denied bail by a different judge. A defense appeal for bail bond is denied. Probable cause hearing scheduled for 2/17/95. Baker's lawyer appeals no-bail ruling to 6th Circuit Court in Cincinnati, Ohio.
  • February 15, 1995 - Baker indicted by grand jury, negating need for probable cause hearing.
  • February 17, 1995 - Baker arraigned, pleads not guilty.
  • March 7, 1995 - Baker's bond denied by 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati.
  • March 9, 1995 - Baker released on $10,000 bond by Judge Avern Cohn.
  • March 15, 1995 - Baker charge based on story dropped, Baker charged with 5 counts based on e-mail with Gonda.
  • June 21, 1995 - Charges against Baker dismissed in a ruling by Judge Avern Cohn. Cohn cited lack of evidence that Baker would act out his fantasies.
  • July 19, 1995 - Government files "notice of intent to appeal" the dismissal of the indictment. Government now has less than 7 months to appeal the ruling.
  • November 21, 1995 - Government files appeal of dismissal. The United States Court of Appeals may take months to decide the case. If the appeal is successful, the case will be brought back to the District Court for trial.
  • August 16, 1996 - 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals hears the government's appeal.
  • January 29, 1997 - The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upholds the dismissal of charges against Baker, ruling that the e-mail messages did not constitute a credible threat.

Cites[edit]

This case has been cited in various cases regarding free speech protection and the Internet.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ On March 11, 1995, the Ann Arbor News said Baker was 20; on March 16 it said he was 21.

Further reading[edit]

  • Platt, Charles. (1997). Anarchy Online. New York: Eos. 367 p. Chapter 5: Threatening Behavior: The Jake Baker Case.

External links[edit]