Making a Terroristic Threat: John Zaubler Threatens to “Blow Up” President Obama and Supreme Court Nominee Sotomayor

A New York City man, John Zaubler, was arraigned today for the crime of Making a Terroristic Threat (New York Penal Law Section 490.20). A “D” felony punishable by up to seven years in state prison, the charge relates to alleged threats made by Mr. Zaubler to “blow up” President Barack Obama and Supreme Court Nominee Sonia Sotomayor. According to a prosecutor, Mr. Zaubler stated “I’m going to kill Judge Sotomayor by blowing her up. I’m going to blow her up. I’m going to do it. I’m going to do it because my girlfriend is not going to federal prison.”

Although Mr. Zaubler is currently at Bellevue Medical Center in Manhattan, New York County Criminal Court Judge James Gibbons arraigned him on live video from 100 Centre Street. According to media reports, it appears that Judge Gibbons adjourned the case for the defendant to receive a psychiatric analysis. This examination is often what is referred to as a “730” examination where the prosecutors and defense attorney try to ascertain whether the defendant is fit to proceed and is capable of understanding the situation he or she faces.

New York Penal Law Section 490.20 states that a person is guilty of Making a Terroristic Threat when with intent to intimidate or coerce a civilian population, influence the policy of a unit of government by intimidation or coercion, or affect the conduct of a unit of government by murder, assassination or kidnapping, he or she threatens to commit or cause to be committed a specified offense and thereby causes a reasonable expectation or fear of the imminent commission of such offense.

It is important to note that pursuant to subsection two (2) of this statute, the law provides that it is no defense to prosecution under this statute that the defendant did not have the intent or capability of committing this offense or that the threat was not made to a person who was a subject of the threat. In other words, even if Mr. Zaubler was completely incapable of following through with the threat and lacked the true intent to do so, he still may be charged and convicted for this crime.

The criminal defense attorneys at Crotty Saland PC know how serious this charge is. As a former Manhattan prosecutor who, along with my partner, served for a combined thirteen years under Robert Morgenthau, I can tell you that the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office is taking this matter very seriously because of the people it involves. Not only is any threat of this nature dangerous in the eyes of law enforcement, but according to media reports, Mr. Zaubler was previously convicted of Harassment and Disorderly conduct for threatening a man. In that case, it was alleged that Mr. Zabler left messages stating that the now deceased senator Patrick Moynihan was sending a Syrian agent who would kill the man unless he apologized to his Muslim friend.

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