Five words have led a Birmingham man to be sentenced to one year in federal prison. This morning, U.S. District Court Judge Lynwood Smith sentenced Jarvis M. Britton to 12 months in federal prison for posting a tweet reading “Let’s kill the president. F.E.A.R.” to President Obama on the social network Twitter.
Britton, 26, pleaded guilty on March 18 to the charges of threatening to kill the president, deviating from his previous claim at a hearing in February that the tweet was aimed at Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad.
In conjuncture with the prison sentence, the judge also ordered Britton to serve three years probation upon his release, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
The tweet, “Let’s kill the president. F.E.A.R.” was posted on Twitter on September 14 of last year. A week later, on September 21, Britton was arrested and charged with threatening the president. Prior to his arrest Britton was already on the radar of the Secret Service for repeatedly crossing what they see as a red line. He was contacted in June by a Secret Service agent urging him to cease with the threatening tweets aimed at the president. He did not.
It is unclear what Britton’s intentions were when he used the anagram “F.E.A.R.” The prosecution claimed, however, that the meaning could be linked to a national militia group and stands for “Forever Enduring, Always Ready.” Regardless of the anagram’s cryptic meaning, the prosecution has been granted their recommended sentence of one year in federal prison. The sentence was handed down Thursday morning at a hearing in Huntsville.
In the time leading up to his arrest, which was ordered by a federal grand jury in September, Britton had reportedly been taking drugs for his bipolar disorder; lithium was one of his prescriptions. The court affirmed however, that Britton was competent enough to stand trial prior to the first hearing.
The tweeting incidents in June that prompted Secret Service intervention were similar and likewise directed at President Obama as well. According to the Agent’s affidavit, Britton posted “Free Speech? Really? Let’s test this. Let’s kill the president!” to Twitter on June 28, clearly testing the boundaries of his First Amendment rights.
The jail time that Britton has been serving since his arrest in September will count toward his sentence. It is still unclear whether or not he will be allowed to tweet after his release from federal prison.