BREAKING NEWS: Local activist will not face prosecution for statements in Facebook video

Ray Harps Muhammad

Photo of Ray Harps Muhammad captured from Facebook live video

SHEILA A. MATHEWS :::

Griffin resident Ray Harps-Muhammad will not be facing a criminal charge of terroristic threats related to a video posted on his Facebook page last week.

The GRIP learned today that Griffin Judicial Circuit District Attorney Marie Broder determined Harps-Muhammad’s actions did not meet the statutory requirements for prosecution.

“Marie and the Sheriff and others involved in all this discussed it. I believe Marie consulted with the GBI about it, as well,” said Chief Assistant District Attorney David Studdard. “The consensus was that Mr. Muhammad’s comments did not rise to the level required by the statute to charge him with terroristic threats.”

Studdard explained this decision was reached after a careful review of Harps-Muhammad’s precise statements.

“I know that sounds crazy to the layperson who hears someone ranting, ‘If you do this I will…’ But the statute is clear on this. The threat can’t be conditional. It’s a tricky statute,” he said.

He then elaborated on the difference between constitutionally protected speech and that which may result in arrest.

“You certainly have a First Amendment right up until you risk or put other people in danger or put someone in reasonable fear or apprehension that you’re going to kill or do something to harm them. I mean, you can’t yell fire in a theater and cause everything that may flow from that. It’s the same analogy,” Studdard said. “And hence the terroristic threat statute. I think that’s why the legislators wrote the law the way it is, because the First Amendment is a sacred thing. I think that’s why the bar is so high.”

Spalding County Sheriff Darrell Dix requested the GBI investigate to determine if statements Harps-Muhammad made violated Georgia law.

While the GBI did consult with Broder, Public Affairs Director Nelly Miles said Friday that the state law enforcement agency “did not open up an investigation.”

Griffin Police Department Chief Mike Yates, who also perceived Harps-Muhammad’s statements to be a terroristic threat, responded to the DA’s decision not to bring a criminal charge.

“Prosecution of these matters are at the discretion of the State be it the State Court Solicitor or the DA; whether I agree personally or not is a moot point,” Yates said.

Dix said he also accepts Broder’s determination that Harps-Muhammad’s statement did not constitute a crime.

“You have to apply the letter of the law to the action that’s taken and you have to look at the law and how it applies to what you believe the offense is and if it doesn’t apply – if the law doesn’t say it’s a violation of the law – as much as you might not like it, that’s why the law is written,” Dix said. “This is exactly why I didn’t rush out and want to start taking warrants on people or any of that stuff. I wanted someone from the outside to look at it and see if the law applied. That’s why I took this approach. It made a lot of people mad and it disappointed me that this would be said about me and the Chief, but you have to abide by the letter of the law. I stand by and support the decision of our district attorney.”

When informed he would not be facing prosecution, Harps-Muhammad responded with gratitude.

“Well, first of all, I would like to say I appreciate whoever made that decision. I did not think I did anything that warranted prosecution. I did not threaten the Sheriff or the Police Chief. What they did do, however, is take my words out of context. If they had paid closer attention, what I did was respond to a lot of threats that were coming my way. Responded to them based on what they were saying to me about taking a tank through my house, and I even got some comments about nooses – about me hanging by a noose. And then there were the racial epithets – being called a ni**er. That’s what I was responding to, but again, I never threatened the Sheriff of the Police Chief,” Harps-Muhammad said. “I am thankful that the DA has taken a look at that and determined they won’t move forward with prosecution.”

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Comments

  1. Cha'kwainas Yanaba says:

    what about hate crime?

  2. Good! We have bigger fish to fry in Griffin like judges stealing money & those extremely high utility bills.

  3. ROY BATTY says:

    Disgusting. Let’s see if you get such hands off treatment when they encounter you. They will continue to prosecute trivial offenses when convenient, but will ignore politically inconvenient ones. The reason GPD and SCSO passed the buck to the local prosecutor is so that they can absolve themselves of responsibility. I am forced to agree with the protestors that our justice system is irreparably corrupt and broken, but for different reasons. We need to get a recall petition for this “Prosecutor”. Another huge screwup by Governor Kemp.

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