The internet makes people and things more accessible. This can be both good and bad. It can be a bad thing when people make reckless and threatening remarks.
David Lee Simpson is charged with felony stalking and computer tampering. Allegedly while following the Jodi Arias trial that was plastered across television and internet, Mr. Simpson became infatuated with Arias. When Turner Broadcasting anchors Nancy Grace and Jane Valez-Mitchell made critical statements about Arias, Mr. Simpson became angered and threatened to kill the television anchors via twitter.
Mr. Simpson is charged stalking via the internet. CR 2013-002709. Mr. Simpson has pleaded not guilty to all the charges, and should be presumed innocent until proven guilty. This blog post uses Mr. Simpson’s situation to look at the laws of Arizona. In no way, does this blog post intend to convey any innocence or guilt upon Mr. Simpson.
Arizona Aggravated Stalking, Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 13-2923.
There are two different classifications of stalking in Arizona. Both require that a person knows or intends action toward another person. Where the two diverge is the lesser charge just requires a person to fear for their safety. The more harsh one requires that a person fear for his or her life.
Would cause a reasonable person to fear death of that person or that person’s immediate family member and that person in fact fears death of that person or that person’s immediate family member.
The alleged facts of this case are interesting in jurisdictionally.
It is alleged that David Lee Smith was in New York when he made threats via Twitter. Both Nancy Grace and Jane Velez-Mitchell work for the HLN network which is a subsidiary of CNN. Like CNN, HLN is based in Atlanta, Georgia. However, Grace and Velez-Mitchell were working in Phoenix while providing commentary on the Jodi Arias trial. These are two pics that I took of the HLN filming in downtown Phoenix. As the viewer can see, the filming occurred middle of downtown. In the second picture I believe that is Jane Valez-Mitchell interviewing one of the audience members.
The charges are being brought in Maricopa County because that appears to be where Nancy Grace and Jane Valez-Mitchell were when at least some of the threats occurred. Consequently, procedural due process may be violated because he was nowhere near Arizona when he made the threats, but he will tried in Arizona.
There are basically two parts to the Arizona stalking law: 1. intentionally or knowingly committing acts; 2. a person is fearful because of the intentional acts. Simpson was allegedly in New York when he made the threats on twitter, while the persons fearful were across the United States (literally) in Phoenix Arizona.
I am not sure if a state criminal law can be applied across multiple states. It is not like both parts of the stalking law occurred in Arizona and then a defendant fled the jurisdiction. Then the crime clearly occurred where the law will be applied. In this present case, the law is being applied to an act done while in New York had intentional effects on two women working in Arizona.
The issue becomes whether Arizona can apply a state criminal law to an act committed in New York that intentionally effected two women working in Arizona.
In the realm of civil law Arizona’s long-arm statute, Ariz. R. Civ. Pro. 4.2(a), allows for residents of other states to be sued in Arizona courts “to the maximum extent permitted by the Constitution of this state and the Constitution of the United States.”
There is not an equivalent for criminal proceedings. This might be an issue of first impression for Arizona courts.
A strong argument for the prosecution to bypass the procedural due process argument is in the state Constitution. The Arizona Constitution grants power to state courts, Ariz. Const. art. 6 § 14 creates the jurisdiction for superior courts throughout the state. Arizona Superior Courts can hear “cases and proceedings in which exclusive jurisdiction is not vested by law in another court.” The defense would have to show that another court has exclusive jurisdiction over the case. That is a tough burden to meet. It could be argued that New York should have jurisdiction because the words were actually typed on a keyboard there. However, that does not meet the exclusivity requirement.
The defense could likely argue there is no clear connection made with Arizona (unless the posts have some sort of geographical quality to them — I have not read the complaint). “Foreseeability is only relevant if a nonresident defendant has made knowing and intentional connections with the forum state such that it would have ‘clear notice that it [would be] subject to suit there.'” Rollin v. William V. Frankel & Co., Inc., 996 P.2d 1254, 1260 (Ariz. Ct. App. 2000) quoting World-Wide Volkswagen Corp. v. Woodson, 444 U.S. 286, 297 (1980). The internet by its very nature is not confined to a single jurisdiction — it is a universal, trans-national phenomenon. The prosecution would likely have to prove Mr. Simpson’s behavior would have a foreseeable impact in Arizona.
This will be a really interesting legal issue and be a fairly novel one too, if argued.