A Cobb County man is in jail tonight on charges of threatening a Clayton County judge by uttering the name of a convicted courthouse shooter: Brian Nichols.
According to the AJC, Erik Gregory Ausler Sr., 33, faces felony charges of terroristic threats and intimidation of a court officer after allegedly telling State Court Judge John Carbo he did not want to have “to pull a Brian Nichols." That comment came Friday after the judge refused to postpone his court date for 10 months. According to the warrant, the Mableton man “stared (Carbo) down in a very threatening manner” when Carbo asked Ausler to be seated.
Brain Nichols made headlines, in 2005, when he escaped from custody at the Fulton County courthouse and murdered the judge presiding over his rape trial and the court reporter. While on the run, he shot and killed a deputy sheriff and a federal agent (Nichols is now serving a life without parole sentence in prison). The Judge was Rowland Barnes. He was loved and respected in the Atlanta legal community.
In Georgia, under O.C.G.A. § 16-11-37(a), [a] person commits the offense of a terroristic threat when he or she threatens to commit any crime of violence, to release any hazardous substance, or to burn or damage property with the purpose of terrorizing another or by causing the evacuation of a building, place of assembly, or facility of public transportation or otherwise causing serious public inconvenience or in reckless disregard of the risk of causing such terror or inconvenience. Crime of terroristic threats is complete when threat is communicated to victim with intent to terrorize.
The crime of making a terroristic threat is quite serious and requires a serious legal defense. A person convicted of the offense of a terroristic threat can be punished by a fine of up to $1,000.00, or by 1 to 5 years in prison, or both. However, when, as here, the terroristic threat is made to a judge, a person can be punished by a fine of $50,000.00, or 5 to 10 years in prison, or both.
The first lesson of this story is that when charged with an offence, you have to subject yourself to the court process and the lawful decisions of our judiciary. Most judges do their best to be fair and decent. There is absolutely no evidence that Mr. Ausler was treated unfairly. All persons must treat the court system with respect. This act of total and complete disrespect will cost him dearly. He could have simply been acting out or frustrated. Anyone can understand frustration. However, we are a country that respects the rule of law. Lawlessness cannot be tolerated, and threats to our institutions of justice cannot be over-looked.
This is not about the freedom of speech. Freedom of speech does not mean freedom from the consequences of what we say. As many law school professors say, you cannot yell fire in a crowded theater.