But Harrison's intentions aren't the point. He was charged with a hate crime, and this video was listed as one of two pieces of evidence that the charges were based on (the other being a letter that the prosecuting attorney's office refuses to release). As distasteful as many people would find this video, there's simply no call for violence against Muslims. It's just a guy grilling a Qur'an (and for Muslims who would complain about this, don't forget that Muhammad smashed the idols of the pagans). Indeed, if we're going to call a video like this a "hate crime," we would have to charge everyone who carries a Qur'an with a hate crime, since the Qur'an does contain clear calls for violence against unbelievers.
Yes, freedom of speech often protects offensive speech. But that's a price we pay for not having our views and ideas censored by the government. It seems that the prosecuting attorney was simply trying to frighten Harrison. The message was clear: "Don't upset Muslims, or we'll throw you in jail." Hmmm. Now where have I heard that before?
The district attorney dropped hate-crime charges against a Tulsa man Friday afternoon after a jury decided the evening before that the defendant did not need involuntary mental-health treatment.
Jesse Quinn Harrison was charged Dec. 28 with transmitting a threatening letter and with malicious intimidation or harassment.
The charges were based on a package he had sent to the Peace Academy at the Islamic Society of Tulsa. The package included a letter and a video he had made of himself smearing a Quran and an image of an Islamic religious figure with pork chops and grilling those items.
A mental-health hearing ended Thursday with a jury's deciding that Harrison was not "in need of treatment," according to the verdict.
Because Harrison - who had been a patient at the Tulsa Center for Behavioral Health - still faced the criminal charges, he was arrested and booked into the Tulsa Jail after the verdict. After the charges were dismissed, he was released from jail Friday, records show.
Tulsa County District Attorney Tim Harris sat in on much of Harrison's mental-health hearing Wednesday and Thursday and said it was a kind of preview of what would be presented in a criminal case. He said he could see how the evidence would be presented and heard Harrison's explanation of the video and letter submitted as evidence for the first time.
"After listening to him - though I don't agree with the jury's decision - it does give you some insight into where he was coming from," Harris said Friday.
Harrison testified Thursday that by posting the video - which he acknowledged was "horribly offensive" - to YouTube and Facebook, he hoped to show that Islam was a peaceful religion despite a prevailing stereotype to the contrary.
"I created this horribly offensive video, yet what so many people expected was for Muslims to act violent to me," Harrison testified. "Despite this horrible offense, they continue to be a law-abiding, peaceful people." (Read more.)