Allegations of corruption or examples of other “extreme” political speech is no defense against charges that former hedge fund manager Vincent McCrudden threatened to kill almost 50 government officials, a judge has ruled.
U.S. District Judge Denis Hurley barred McCrudden’s lawyer from introducing evidence of possible corruption at the regulators allegedly targeted by McCrudden, or from bringing up other examples of extreme speech, at McCrudden’s trial, which begins today.
Such evidence “does not justify a threat, if in fact one was made, to kill any one of these individuals,” Hurley ruled.
The judge also ruled that whether McCrudden’s free-speech rights protected him from prosecution was a matter of law for him, and not the jury, to decide.
McCrudden is accused of posting an “execution list” with 47 names on his Web site, urging readers to “go buy a gun and let’s get to work taking back our country from these criminals” and promising to “lead by example.” Among those on the list were Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Mary Schapiro and Commodity Futures Trading Commission chief Gary Gensler.
“A reasonable person looking at this would understand it to be political hyperbole” and “not the rantings of a lunatic,” McCrudden’s lawyer, Bruce Barket, argued at a hearing on Thursday, to no avail.
McCrudden is also accused of sending threatening, profanity-laced e-mails to regulators, including one, allegedly sent anonymously, to the National Futures Association’s Daniel Driscoll, warning, “it wasn’t ever a question of ‘if’ I was going to kill you, it was just a question of when.”
McCrudden denies sending that e-mail, and Hurley gave Barket the green-light to introduce evidence that the Singapore hotel from which McCrudden allegedly sent it was prone to computer hacking. The judge also OKed evidence of McCrudden’s many run-ins with regulators, who he has said have a vendetta against him.
“That history should go before the jury,” Hurley ruled.