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Florida man sentenced to prison over Facebook threat to kill Christian group

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A Florida man has been sentenced to six months in prison for threatening to “literally kill” employees of the national conservative Christian non-profit American Family Association in social media messages that Facebook allegedly said did not violate its policies.

Chase Davis, 21, of Pompano Beach, Florida, was sentenced to federal prison last week by U.S. District Judge Sheri Polster Chappell after sending two May 2019 Facebook messages in which he claimed that he and others would kill every person who runs the Mississippi-based AFA.

In addition to incarceration, Davis must also serve 400 hours of community service, pay $1,440 of restitution to AFA for costs it incurred to protect its employees from the threat and will be required to accept mental health treatment, according to Department of Justice. After his sentence is served, Davis will be under court supervision for three years.

“I am coming to Tupelo unexpected with a group of people and we are going to kill every single person that runs your group,” Davis’s May 2019 Facebook messages to the group reads. “I have put together a group to have you… obliterated to dust. Yes, I literally mean killing all of you.”

In a statement, AFA explained that its employees contacted Facebook after receiving the threats. Facebook’s policy does not allow “hate speech, credible threats or direct attacks on an individual or group, content that contains self-harm or excessive violence.”

But the activist organization claims that Facebook deemed the messages it received were not a violation of policy. AFA added that its appeal of Facebook’s decision was unsuccessful.

The threat did prompt immediate reports to federal law enforcement and an FBI investigation was launched. Davis was indicted for criminal threats in the summer of 2019 by a grand jury in the Northern District of Mississippi. He pled guilty to the charges in a Florida federal court.

His guilty plea in Florida was according to a rule that allows a defendant to plead guilty to charges in the district where they reside through an agreement by the parties and the court, according to the Justice Department.

“It is important to protect free speech, but when it crosses the line and becomes threats to harm others on the basis of race, religious beliefs, political affiliations or other protected reasons, we will use Federal laws to hold those individuals accountable for their actions,” U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Mississippi William C. Lamar said in a statement.

The motive has not been directly proven as a threat to conservative Christians, but Davis’ messages do suggest a hatred towards AFA, a Christian nonprofit that advocates for public policy goals and holds conservative views on issues like abortion and LGBT rights.

“AFA supports a biblical worldview that God created us by design as male and female and that marriage is between one man and one woman,” AFA Senior Vice President Buddy Smith said in a statement.

“With all the sexual brokenness in our society and in the church today, AFA will not be intimidated into silence … a relationship with Jesus Christ is the only answer to the culturally controversial questions about gender and sexuality.”

AFA advocates for traditional family values but is listed as a “domestic hate group” by the controversial far-left civil rights organization Southern Poverty Law Center.

AFA and dozens of other organizations that hold Christian conservative views on issues like marriage and sexuality have contested their labeling by AFA as “hate” groups. SPLC has been cited by some media organizations in their reporting on such groups.

In 2018, 47 conservative groups, including the AFA, issued an open letter calling on government agencies, news organizations and other entities to avoid using SPLC for guidance, claiming that the organization has “defamed and otherwise harmed” dozens of groups because of ideological differences.

In August 2012, the headquarters of the Family Research Council, a Washington D.C.-based Christian conservative activist organization, was attacked by a gunman who later admitted to FBI agents that he found FRC through SPLC’s list posted online of anti-LGBT “hate” groups.

FRC President Tony Perkins accused SPLC’s “reckless labeling” of causing “devastating consequences.” Perkins at the time claimed that SPLC had provided a “guide map” for terrorists to target FRC and like-minded groups.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has urged tighter regulation on internet communication, especially regarding harmful content and what constitutes free speech.

In February, Zuckerberg spoke at a conference in Germany, stating that private companies should not have to make regulation decisions and that the government should, according to BBC.

In the February speech, Zuckerberg recommended a combination of existing television and media regulations to be applied with a new regulation targeting social media specifically. On Wednesday, Zuckerberg testified before the U.S. House of Representatives antitrust subcommittee to discuss the power of big-tech companies and the content on their platforms.

“I understand that people have concerns about the size and perceived power that tech companies have,” Zuckerberg said in prepared remarks.

“That’s why I’ve called for a more active role for governments and regulators and updated rules for the Internet. If we do this right, we can preserve what’s best about this technology … while also protecting society from broader harms.”

Sources:Christian Post

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Wildfires spread: 200 homes evacuated in California

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A wildfire in Southern California that began Friday evening amid blazing temperatures spread across 1,900 acres and prompted evacuations.

Officials confirmed in a tweet Saturday morning that the flames were zero percent contained. The Riverside County Fire Department responded with air and ground resources, and at least 375 firefighters were assigned to the blaze, dubbed the Apple Fire.

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Mayor Sylvester Turner donates $ 19 million to the people of Houston.

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Houston — A second assistance program is going to be available for Houston renters who are struggling to keep up with their payments during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mayor Sylvester Turner announced a $19 million rental assistance program with $15 million coming from the city’s CARES Act funding and $4 million coming from private donations which were raised in the last 36 hours.

Houston Endowment Inc. donated $2 million while the Greater Houston COVID-19 Recovery Fund and the Kinder Foundation donated $1 million each.

Turner said they hope to grow the fund to $20-25 million by next week. City Council has to first approve the plan next Wednesday.

The announcement comes the same day millions of Americans are losing their extra $600 weekly unemployment benefit from the CARES Act.

The money will help renters that don’t qualify for federal relief dollars and cover legal assistance.

Baker Ripley will once again administer the program.

The mayor said this will help thousands more families on top of the 13,000 helped during their first rental relief program in May.

The funding will not be allocated on a first come, first serve basis.

He added they’ve learned lessons since then.

“Not first-come, first-serve,” Turner said. “Want to design metrics for those who need it the most. Restricted last time because it was just federal dollars. Now we’re combining with non-federal dollars.”

The mayor explained they are trying to design metrics that will help those in most need, especially residents who face immediate eviction.

If you have a lease, you qualify for this second relief program. Some of the funding will be set aside for people who didn’t quality for help from the CARES Act.

Undocumented immigrants will also be eligible for relief under this second program.

The program also provides funding for Lone Star Legal Aid to help renters.

“We want to keep people in their homes,” Turner said.

The mayor is asking justices of the peace to be thoughtful in this time when it comes to eviction notices.

The Houston Apartment Association is also working on developing a voluntary grace period to help renters.

urner also pleaded Friday afternoon with the state and federal governments to help the city.

“We won’t meet every need but we’ll do our part,” Turner said. “Congress, if you’re listening, Mr. President, if you’re listening, people need your help and they need your help now.”

The first program was provided in May. The $15 million meant to help Houstonians pay rent was gone in less than 90 minutes.

READ: Fort Bend residents in need of help can now apply for Phase 2 of rental, mortgage relief program

“If we had kept it open there would have been thousands more who would have applied, we had to cut it off because there was no money there,” Turner said at the time.

At the time, the City of Houston Housing Department acknowledged the funding was nowhere near enough to meet the need of all Houstonians.

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