LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- A charge of terroristic threatening against a Louisville attorney accused of threatening Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear's life on social media has been dismissed.
James Troutman, 54, was arrested in April 2020 after police said he expressed in comments on social media an intent to commit a crime "likely to result in death or serious physical injury to the Kentucky governor." Online court documents show the misdemeanor charge of third-degree terroristic threatening against Troutman was dismissed without prejudice Friday.
Troutman completed anger management classes and can have no contact with the governor or his office.
"What he said was not a crime, and the prosecution recognized that," said Troutman's attorney, Steve Romines. "Greg likewise recognizes that, even though it was protected speech, it wasn’t helpful under the circumstances, and he regrets posting it.”
Kentucky State Police was contacted on April 16, 2020, about a statement made on a Facebook account bearing the name "Greg Troutman." The statement, according to police, read as follows: "Maybe some should ask Beshear in a press conference about his thoughts on William Goebel. For those of you who don't know the history...it's a good read..."
In 1900, William Goebel was shot by an assassin the day before he was sworn in as Kentucky's 34th governor. He died four days later.
Police said they traced the Facebook account to Troutman, who in addition to practicing law is also the former president of the Springhurst Community Association.
When questioned by police, Troutman allegedly admitted to making the statement on Facebook and proceeded to give a detailed description of the history of Goebel and his assassination, according to online court documents.
Four days later, KSP said it received a screenshot of another statement Troutman made on Facebook in an exchange with an anonymous user.
The exchange read as follows, according to police:
TROUTMAN: There's a rally tomorrow in Frankfort and Lansing.
ANONYMOUS USER: Will the Gov be there shooting plates???
TROUTMAN: With any luck the Gov will be the one at whom the shooting will be directed.
Troutman was arrested the next day and charged with terroristic threatening, which state law defines as: threatening "to commit any crime likely to result in death or serious physical injury to another person or likely to result in substantial property damage to another person" or intentionally making "false statements for the purpose of causing evacuation of a building, place of assembly, or facility of public transportation."
Romines told WDRB News at the time of Troutman's arrest that what Troutman wrote was "not a threat."
"The bottom line is what he said was not helpful and ridiculous," Romines said. "What's more unhelpful and ridiculous is saying it's a crime and arresting him for it. To put him in jail over a Facebook post that doesn't meet the definition of terroristic threatening is absurd.
"... He didn’t say he was going to kill him," Romines added. "We like to pretend the First Amendment means something, but it only does if it’s something you agree with."
A memorandum filed in June 2020, argues Troutman's comment about shooting "conveys an opinion and not a threat" and "articulates a suggestion of self-defense."
"If a governor were to shoot at the license plates of protestors, such act would not be legally justified and Kentucky law would certainly countenance the returning of such fire in defense," the memorandum says.
Regarding the comment referencing Goebel, the memorandum says it "must be viewed in the context of the discussion which precipitated it."
According to the memorandum, Troutman made the comment as part of a social media discussion among a group of people who were upset over Beshear's closing of nonessential businesses in an effort to combat the spread of COVID-19. According to the memorandum, members of the social media group were planning a protest at the state Capitol on April 15, 2020.
"A portion of the discussion veered to a concerted effort by some members of the group to advocate the physical removal Governor Beshear from office as well as armed action against him," the memorandum says. "... Given the underlying context of the social media group discussions and the contemporaneous events, when viewed in the context of past Kentucky history, Troutman’s statement must be viewed as expressing either sarcasm to the ironic possibility of history being repeated or a reasoned expression of what could occur."
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