All charges against a man who allegedly tweeted threats against Acting San Francisco Police Chief Toney Chaplin were dropped earlier this month, according to the Public Defender’s Office.
Donald Hoganson, 60, was arrested July 19 at his San Francisco home after the discovery of a series of tweets he allegedly posted calling for the beheading of Chaplin, among other violence.
According to court documents, a former television reporter turned Police Department employee, David Stevenson, discovered the tweets.
The social media postings came at a particularly tense time for police in San Francisco and around the country after the killing of five Dallas police officers during a Black Lives Matter protest earlier that month.
Hoganson faced charges for the alleged threats including criminal threats, stalking, threatening a public officer and threatening an executive office. Each charge also included hate crime enhancements. If convicted, he would have faced six years in prison.
But on Aug. 8, Judge Edward Sarkisian found there was insufficient evidence to proceed with the case, according to the District Attorney’s Office.
That finding was on free speech grounds, according to the Public Defender’s Office.
Hoganson reportedly tried to have his public defender, Landon Davis, a black man, dismissed because of what he claimed was an alleged conflict of interest. Davis, however, successfully argued that his client was simply praying that someone cut Chaplin’s head off, namely the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Despite his ravings — the judge even questioned if he was mentally fit — Hoganson’s tweets were considered free speech based on another case in which a man threatened President Barack Obama.
In United States vs. Bagdasarian, the U.S. Appeals Court, which noted that Walter Bagdasarian was a “very unpleasant fellow,” overturned his conviction for threatening the president in 2008 on a Yahoo message board. To convict someone of a threat, noted the ruling, there must be credible evidence that the person behind the threats meant to harm or kill the president.
“Committed public defenders like Landon Davis fight every day for their clients, even if they vehemently disagree with their views,” said Public Defender Jeff Adachi.
“They do it because they believe in constitutional protections for everyone. That not only includes the right to a zealous defense, but the free speech rights granted to all Americans, regardless of their message,” he said.
The Police Department did not return a call for comment.