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Appeals court upholds conviction of a man who threatened to kill a family court judge — in a song on YouTube

Jeffries in his YouTube video.

Yesterday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in Cincinnati upheld the conviction of a divorced Tennessee dad with the unlikely name of Franklin Delano Jeffries II who, in the midst of a custody battle, decided to post a YouTube video of himself singing a song with the sweet title “Daughter’s Love.”

The problem was that only a small portion of the song was actually about daughters and love; the rest was about Mr. Jeffries’ apparent desire to kill the judge overseeing the custody hearings, and possibly others.

As the appeals court judge put it:

The song contains sweet passages about relationships between fathers and daughters and the importance of spending time together. The rest boils into an assortment of the banal (complaints about his ex-wife), the ranting (gripes about lawyers and the legal system) and the menacing (threats to kill the judge if he doesn’t “do the right thing” at an upcoming custody hearing). Jeffries set the words to music and created a video of himself performing the song on a guitar painted with an American flag on it. The style is part country, part rap, sometimes on key, and surely therapeutic. 

Here are the song’s opening verses:

I’ve had enough of this abuse from you.

It has been goin’ on for 13 years.

I have been to war and killed a man.

I don’t care if I go to jail for 2,000 years.

’Cause this is my daughter we’re talkin’ about,

And when I come to court this better be the last time.

I’m not kidding at all, I’m making this video public

’Cause if I have to kill a judge or a lawyer or a woman I don’t care.

One of Jeffries’ lawyers told the Wall Street Journal that this was all a misunderstood attempt at humor and that his client “never dreamed this message would get back to the judge,” a fact seemingly belied by that whole “I’m not kidding at all” line and the bit that followed about making the video public.

He followed this threat with a brief tribute to his daughter:

I love you; daughters are the beautiful things in my life.

It keeps me going and keeps me alive everyday.

And then it was back to threats (I’ve put the direct threats in bold):

I’m not kidding, judge, you better listen to me.

I killed a man downrange in war.

I have nothing against you, but I’m tellin’ you this better be the last court date. …

So I promise you, judge, I will kill a man.

This time better be the last time I end up in court …

And this s___ needs to stop because you’re gonna lose your job.

And I guarantee you, if you don’t stop, I’ll kill you.

’Cause I am gonna make a point either way you look at it somebody’s gotta pay,

And I’m telling you right now live on the Internet.

So put me in jail and make a big scene. …

So I’m gonna f___ somebody up, and I’m going back to war in my head.

So July the 14th is the last time I’m goin’ to court.

Believe that. Believe that, or I’ll come after you after court. Believe that.

I love my daughter.

Nobody’s going take her away from me.

’Cause I got four years left to make her into an adult.

I got four years left until she’s eighteen.

So stop this s___ because I’m getting tired of you,

And I don’t care if everybody sees this Internet site

Because it is the truth and it’s war. …

If fathers don’t have rights or women don’t have their rights or equal visitation,

Get their ass out of office.

’Cause you don’t deserve to be a judge and you don’t deserve to live.

You don’t deserve to live in my book.

And you’re gonna get some crazy guy like me after your ass.

And I hope I encourage other dads to go out there and put bombs in their goddamn cars.

Blow ’em up …

BOOM!

There went your f___in’ car. I can shoot you. I can kill you. I can

f___ you. Be my friend. Do something right. Serve my daughter.

Well, prosecutors took him up on that offer to “put [him] in jail,” and a jury agreed; Jeffries was sentenced to 18 months for his threats. And now the conviction has been upheld in Circuit Court.

You can read  rest of the lyrics and the judge’s opinion here. (It’s in pdf form.)

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Bagelsan
Bagelsan
9 years ago

I don’t know, was the worst part the death threats or the terrible scanning?

Karalora
Karalora
9 years ago

Shocking. I can’t imagine why any sane judge would think him unfit to be a parent to a teenaged girl, or any child, for that matter. [/sarcasm]

On another note…these are song lyrics? I can’t find a single rhyme, and the only way any of it scans is if there has been a radical redefinition of the concept of syllables.

Falconer
Falconer
9 years ago

InB4 “You’re taking this out of context!”

Falconer
Falconer
9 years ago

@Karalora: That’s the problem with living in the place where so many great musicians were born … everybody thinks they’re the next one.

Scotty Dudebro
9 years ago

I almost want to hear him sing it just because no matter how many times I read it I cannot find a rhythm for the lyrics.

cloudiah
9 years ago

He has two web sites:
http://filmknoxville.com/
http://www.dalejeffries.com/

He links to the video on the first one.

themisanthropicmuse
9 years ago

So let me get this straight. Guy with upcoming court case posts youtube video and then spams the link in facebook to people with messages about wanting to have the judge see it for court. Then when the judge does see it and the obvious happens he has the gall to claim lyrics like “And I guarantee you, if you don’t stop, I’ll kill you.” about the judge, that he wanted the judge to see for court, were never meant as a threat. This guy is hella dumb and lacks the courage of his convictions.

hellkell
hellkell
9 years ago

Don’t name your kids after Presidents living or dead, famous Confederate generals, or Hindu gods. Nothing good will come of it.

Cliff Pervocracy (@pervocracy)

“I’ll do anything for my child! Anything!”

“…Well, anything except shut up my big stupid ego and actually work with the system. You can’t expect me to do that.”

Cliff Pervocracy (@pervocracy)

Hellkell – Well, there’s George Washington Carver.

Sharculese
9 years ago

The style is part country, part rap,
sometimes on key, and surely therapeutic.

Falconer
Falconer
9 years ago

@Cliff: Yeah, heaven forbid they should be prevented from throwing a major, public tantrum, or that they should ever suffer consequences for major public tantrums including threats to kill a judge.

Word around town says one of the local judges wears a gun under his robes in the courtroom. I’m not sure I think that’s going too far.

Scotty Dudebro
9 years ago

http://www.knoxnews.com/news/2011/mar/31/army-sergeants-web-video-nets-conviction/ OK, so the guy has no singing talent at all. On the other hand, I smell a new MRA saint for them to wave around as proof, PROOF I tell you!!!, of the evil misandrist feminist conspiracy.

skeptifem
9 years ago

I hope his daughter never saw the video. Jesus.

hellkell
hellkell
9 years ago

Cliff, I was being a wiseass.

Linds
9 years ago

I know I’m probably missing the point entirely but:

a judge or a lawyer or a woman

So these are all individual discrete entities? Is he planning to just kill any old random woman? Because it sure sounds that way.

Linds
9 years ago

Skeptifem, I was thinking the same thing.

He’s all “I love you, honey. ENOUGH TO MURDER PEOPLE BECAUSE THEY WON’T LET ME HAVE MY WAY.” I’d be a little terrified of that sort of “love” if I were her.

Falconer
Falconer
9 years ago

@Linds: I’m pretty sure that “a woman” is a specific woman in his mind — the mother. But yeah, it is pretty vague.

Dani Alexis
Dani Alexis
9 years ago

I had a client once (not family law) whose attitude toward all legal-related issues was “I’ll do anything except work within the system.” Never seemed to matter how good the odds were in his favor or how easy working within the system was, either.

I think I had the same tail-chasing conversation with him a dozen different times on various issues, and it always went something like this:

Him: “I’ll do anything to get this resolved as soon as possible.”
Me: “Okay, then [fill out this paperwork/show up for this court date/etc.].”
Him: “I don’t want to do this the way everyone’s always done it.”
Me: “Well, that’s how you’re going to get this resolved as soon as possible. Otherwise you’re looking at a drawn-out, expensive battle.”
Him: “I don’t want a fight. I want to get this resolved as soon as possible. I’ll do whatever it takes.” [repeat from start]

He turned into a rampaging misogynist/MRA-type in later years. But I can’t imagine those two are related. *whistles*

Linds
9 years ago

@Falconer: I guessed that but they way the lyrics are written it’s like he’s trying for plausible deniability (so he doesn’t have to explain to his daughter why he’s threatening to kill her mom, maybe) but because he’s already completely blown that out of the water by saying he’s going to kill the judge it just ends up sounding like he’s going to go kill a couple of random women instead.

EEB
EEB
9 years ago

Y’know, one of my brothers was kinda like this guy in high school. He just stopped going to classes or turning in homework, so it was clear graduation wasn’t a sure thing anymore. They bent over backwards to help him–first they dropped his course load, then they moved him to independent study (where it was basically “fill out these worksheets for graduation”). Over and over he assured us that he wanted to graduate, but two weeks before they were due, he had months worth of worksheets piled up on his desk. And first he’d say, “I’ll work on them later!” and then turn around and start into, “Well, I’m going to trade school, I don’t need my diploma, I could get a GED, my band could take off, what kind of rock star needs high school, anyway?” instead of doing the obvious and, like, sitting his ass down and powering through the work he had left. It was everybody else’s fault–his teacher, my parents, me, his friends, the politicians who changed the graduate requirements–and I’m pretty glad he had neither the technology or the impusle to record himself and put what he said about people online. I might be visiting him in prison right now.

But my brother was 17. And had just discovered pot. And finally got his act together and did what needed to be done, even though it meant a lot of sleepless nights until he got it finished. Oh, and he was a much better musician.

So, not really like that guy at all, actually. Sigh. I fail.

Unimaginative
Unimaginative
9 years ago

I love my daughter.

Nobody’s going take her away from me.

’Cause I got four years left to make her into an adult.

I got four years left until she’s eighteen.

I only have 4 years in which I can legally enforce my bullshit on her, before the law says she’s old enough to kick me to the kerb. You HAVE to take her away from her mother, who’s putting all kinds of independent ideas in her head.

Yeah, right. Hopefully he’ll continue his ass-headedness in jail and not get released until she’s 18.

Freitag
Freitag
9 years ago

My heart goes out to the daughter. She’s going to need some excellent therapy to get through this with minimal scarring. Consider that she’s already had 14 years of living with her father, she’s probably already suffering some trouble. Mr. Jeffries comes across as a man who feels ownership of his family rather than love.

Poor kid.

pillowinhell
pillowinhell
9 years ago

Two things: holy shit!!

Its about time.

Now…about the other threats being posted online…. I bet certain MRAs are sweating just a little bit.

kristinmh
kristinmh
9 years ago

And this prince among men was not automatically given full custody? MISANDRY!

(Android autocorrect does not recognize “misaNdry” and has zero suggestions. MISANDRY!)

Viscaria
Viscaria
9 years ago

So… he was planning to have custody of his daughter in jail?

kristinmh
kristinmh
9 years ago

Incidentally I am totally stealing “F*ck you, be my friend” for my next opera.

Sharculese
9 years ago

So… he was planning to have custody of his daughter in jail?

it was his family court judge he threatened. he had unsupervised visits, but the judge scheduled a followup hearing and that’s when he decided the best course of action was death threats

katz
9 years ago

Viscaria: Family jail!

Nicholas Kapur
9 years ago

The judge’s opinion is hilarious.

Tangled in a prolonged legal dispute over visitation
rights to see his daughter, Franklin Delano Jeffries II tried something new. He wrote a
song. The title, “Daughter’s Love,” gives away half of the lyrics. The song contains
sweet passages about relationships between fathers and daughters and the importance of
spending time together. The rest boils into an assortment of the banal (complaints about
his ex-wife), the ranting (gripes about lawyers and the legal system) and the menacing
(threats to kill the judge if he doesn’t “do the right thing” at an upcoming custody
hearing). Jeffries set the words to music and created a video of himself performing the
song on a guitar painted with an American flag on it. The style is part country, part rap,
sometimes on key, and surely therapeutic. Had Jeffries left it at that, there would be
nothing more to say.

Viscaria
Viscaria
9 years ago

@Sharculese:

it was his family court judge he threatened. he had unsupervised visits, but the judge scheduled a followup hearing and that’s when he decided the best course of action was death threats

Yeah… but what I have gathered from this (and I might be confused) is that he doesn’t want to risk losing any of those visits, so his solution would be… murder, which is the quickest way to ensure he’ll only ever see her through a pane of glass.

Viscaria
Viscaria
9 years ago

There was a sale on ellipses at the punctuation store today…


howardbann1ster
howardbann1ster
9 years ago

Oh, wow.

Jeffries posted a link to the video on his Facebook wall and sent links to twentynine
Facebook users, including Tennessee State Representative Stacey Campfield, WBIR
Channel 10 in Knoxville, and DADS of Tennessee, Inc., an organization devoted to
empowering divorced fathers as equal partners in parenting.

Yep, he totally didn’t mean for this to be taken as a serious threat! He just sent it to his State Representative and the news!!

howardbann1ster
howardbann1ster
9 years ago

No, see, Viscaria, you’re making a classic mistake.

You see, if you use JUST THE RIGHT WORDS when you bully somebody mercilessly, they’ll simply do exactly what you want them to do, and you won’t have to kill them!!!! That’s how the world works, right?

Cliff Pervocracy (@pervocracy)

So… he was planning to have custody of his daughter in jail?

Yes, because life is like an action movie, where if you kill enough bad guys you get everything you want. Like, if you kill enough cops, the other ones will go “uh oh, this guy is too much of a badass for us, we better stop going after him.”

Or if you kill a judge, the system will just shrug and go “Well, now there’s no judge for this case! So we better just drop it and forget it ever happened!”

aceofsevens
9 years ago

Threats don’t count if they sort-of rhyme.

Pear_tree
Pear_tree
9 years ago

This sounds naive, but having read lots of posts defended on the grounds of free speech, is threatening someone actually a crime in the US? Is it only a crime if the person is important or are death threats etc generally illegal? What are the limits in terms of what counts as a threat and what is free speech? I guess this shouldn’t be so surprising but I didn’t really know. It isn’t that I plan to threaten people I’m just confused.

ostara321
ostara321
9 years ago

“Daughters Love”?? Ugh. I can’t think of a more disgusting title for a song that is so demonstrably not about daughters or love of any kind. I really feel for his daughter. That’s got to be some kind of fucked up mind job to have your dad write and sing and post on the internet that horrible shit and call it “Daughters Love”. Jesus Jones.

howardbann1ster
howardbann1ster
9 years ago

I understand your confusion, Pear_tree. If you read the decision David linked to, it may clear some stuff up… or make it worse.

Or, check out the law.

871. Threats against President and successors to the
Presidency.
872. Extortion by officers or employees of the United
States.
873. Blackmail.
874. Kickbacks from public works employees.
875. Interstate communications.
876. Mailing threatening communications.
877. Mailing threatening communications from foreign
country.
878. Threats and extortion against foreign officials,
official guests, or internationally protected
persons.
879. Threats against former Presidents and certain other
persons.

Just speaking a threat against a private citizen out loud is not really covered.

Interstate communications–the internet–kinda sneak in there.

(if it’s extortion or blackmail, that’s different)

(if you’re a candidate for President from a major party, that’s different)

Clear as mud?

aceofsevens
9 years ago
Reply to  Pear_tree

True threats (as opposed to political hyperbole) are always illegal, though it’s a more serious crime when you target public officials. The Whitest Kids You Know explain here:

Also, what he said at the end sounds like incitement to commit a crime, which is also illegal.

Sharculese
9 years ago

@pear_tree

there’s a certain point of abstraction where it starts to merge into things that might be protected speech, but a direct threat against another person definitely isn’t protected speech. Judge Sutton has a good summary of the law on that point:

Based on existing precedent, the court correctly rejected Jeffries’ proposed instruction. The language of the statute prohibits “any” interstate “communication” that “contain[s] any threat to . . . injure the person of another.” 18 U.S.C. § 875(c). In proscribing interstate “communication[s]” of this sort, § 875(c) punishes speech. That is something courts must keep “in mind” in construing the statute, but it is not something that insulates Jeffries’ words from criminalization. Words often are the sole means of committing crime—think bribery, perjury, blackmail, fraud. Yet the First Amendment does not disable governments from punishing these language-based crimes many of which pre-dated the First Amendment.

All that the First Amendment requires in the context of a § 875(c) prosecution
is that the threat be real—a “true threat.” Once that has been shown, once the government shows that a reasonable person would perceive the threat as real, any concern about the risk of unduly chilling protected speech has been answered. For if an individual makes a true threat to another, the government has the right, if not the duty, to “protect[] individuals from the fear of violence, from the disruption that fear engenders, and from the possibility that the threatened violence will occur,” all of which places the menacing words and symbols “outside the First Amendment.”

i took out the internal citations to make it more readable

aworldanonymous
9 years ago

Well fuck. This dude’s a whole new level of scary.

Falconer
Falconer
9 years ago

@Pear_tree: It is generally illegal to threaten someone in the United States.

Our First Amendment was put in place in light of the British Empire smashing printing presses and locking people up for writing pamphlets about how no one ought to have to pay George III any taxes if he wasn’t going to listen to us ask about things we needed done. The amendment primarily prevents the government and the people from quashing expression by denying it an avenue; it doesn’t say anything about avoiding the consequences of what you say or write.

So yeah, Mr. Jeffries is liable for threatening judges and lawyers.

As for the rest of your questions, ideally threats against the least of these should be given as much weight as threats against judges or the President, but in any event, threats against courts cannot be tolerated because the courts need to be free to render an impartial judgment.

Falconer
Falconer
9 years ago

And it’s not really fair to cry “ninja’d” when what happened was I fell asleep at the keyboard.

wordsp1nner
wordsp1nner
9 years ago

IANAL, but my bet is that the “interstate communications” is part of what makes it a federal case. States probably have similar laws about threats that don’t require the threat be communicated across state lines.

Noah Brand
9 years ago

Why the hell is it that right-wingers never grasp scansion? Not one. It’s why they gravitate to country music, where the rhythms are very forgiving of extra and missing syllables and misplaced emphases. Seriously, point at one right-winger who can consistently do accurate scansion and no fair saying Rudyard Kipling. I mean, yes, Kipling, but c’mon.

Falconer
Falconer
9 years ago

@Noah Brand: I hear T S Eliot was rather patriarchal.

ozymandias42
9 years ago

Ezra Pound?

Dani Alexis
Dani Alexis
9 years ago

@Noah Brand: One would think right-wingers would prefer verse that scanned perfectly. Scansion being all regimented and traditional and so on, and “free verse” sounding suspiciously like it’s related to “free love.”

I don’t get it either.

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