Is a Threat to ''Beat'' Somebody Constitutes Harassment ?

In People v. Dietze (75 NY2d 47 [1989]) the defendant had been found guilty of harassment based upon his threat to "beat the crap out of the complainant some day or night" (at 50). In reversing, the Court of Appeals held that "any proscription of pure speech must be sharply limited to words which, by their utterance alone, inflict injury or tend naturally to evoke immediate violence or other breach of the peace" (see Dietze, supra, at 52). The Court further held that the defendant's threat, while abusive and annoying, did not fall within the scope of "constitutionally proscribable expression" (at 51).