Man Arrested For Criticizing Rudy Giuliani

Monday, May 25, 2009

According to a New York Post headline, he was a "CRAZED ATTACKER." The New York Daily News ran with "angry attacker" in the headline, but used "angry lunatic" in the first paragraph. But leave it to NYC's third tabloid, Newsday, to more calmly report, "A man arrested on charges of harassing Rudy Giuliani on a Bridgehampton street said Saturday that he was merely expressing a difference of opinion with the former New York City mayor and prosecutor."

Not only that, but the man is claiming that it was Giuliani that threatened him first.

"Mr. Giuliani and I had words in Bridgehampton," John W. McCluskey, 69, of Amagansett, said last night. "I am not a respecter of him, and I told him essentially that he would prosecute and persecute a cheese sandwich if he got the opportunity."

McCluskey, a documentary filmmaker, was charged with harassment, a violation, "after he repeatedly approached and threatened" to hit Gotham's 107th mayor on Main Street around 1:30 p.m., Southampton Town police said.

Giuliani had been walking near a street fair when he was confronted, shop workers said. McCluskey said it was Giuliani who threatened to hit him.

New York Post writers Taylor Vecsey and Ginger Adams Otis sound like they are auditioning to work on future Giuliani political campaigns in their writeup:

Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani didn't blink today when a surly passer-by threatened to knock his lights out as Rudy strolled with wife Judi in the Hamptons, challenging the wacko to "do it!"

A "slim, well-dressed man" came charging out of nowhere and began ranting at the happy couple as they left an arts fair in Bridgehampton at 1:30 p.m., according to patrons sitting outside the nearby Golden Pear bakery on Main Street.


But when McCluskey, of Amagansett, started poking Giuliani in the chest, Brooklyn native Rudy turned feisty.

"Alright, do it then!" he yelled, according to witness Mark Borghi.

The bold challenge was apparently too much for the fuming suspect, and the Giulianis were able to give him the slip as he continued to scream.

McCluskey sent an email to the Gawker website the other day which told his side of the story.

Dear Editor,

I am the alleged crazed John W. McCluskey who "tried to attack" sweet Rudy Gulianno "out for a stroll" in Bridgehampton. The fact is that while crossing the street I simply informed Rudy of my contempt for his sleazy bullying tactics for most of his prosecutorial life. I pointed out he would gladly prosecute and persecute the innocent as well as the guilty if it gained him publicity.

He became irate and angry and threatened to beat me up for daring to express my opinion. He flew into a rage in the middle of the street using the foulest of language and threatened to kick my ass.His wife tried to calm him down but he continued his ranting's. Of course he proved my point by having me arrested for speaking irreverently to his royal nothingness. He's a true egomaniac and a bully who can hand it out but can't take.

McCluskey plugged some documentaries he made, "When the Goddess Ruled the Earth" and "Zeus Almighty", then — perhaps a bit paranoiacally — claimed that Giuliani "probably knows I am working on a documentary on 911 which includes his ineptitude and mishandling of certain events leading up to 911 and he thought this would be a good opportunity to discredit me."

(More info on his documentaries can be found at his website)

Anyway, what none of the tabloids explain is why the police arrested a person for making threats that weren't against another person's life in the first place. Saying "I'll kick your ass" is constitutionally protected speech.

Of course, why he was arrested can probably be best explained by this final Post excerpt: "Witnesses said Judi could be heard on her cellphone ordering their driver to fetch them and call the police. 'I want him in jail,' she said several times, according to witnesses."

Damage control perhaps? Newsday later reported, "Giuliani's wife called the former mayor's personal driver, but the spokeswoman denied published reports saying she loudly called for McCluskey's jailing."

The 911 phone records could quickly prove if that is a lie.

Update: Some commenters disagree with my contention that the words are "constitutionally protected speech." Certainly, the 1942 Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire decision led to the "fighting words" exception, but as the First Amendment Center points out, "Since Chaplinsky was handed down, the Court has never sustained a conviction for 'fighting words' in expression directed at a public official."

I would guess that many courts might disagree with me that the threat exception should only apply to threats against lives, or threats that later result in violence (I'm certainly no lawyer). But calling idle threats illegal in a Minority Report-like way would result in countless arrests in schoolyards, bars and the New York Stock Exchange floor every day.

From first and second hand experience, I do attest, that in New York State, even if you provide police with a taped recording or a note that says "I'll kick your ass" from someone, unless there was an actual assault they will do absolutely nothing.

Anyway, that's why this story is in the blog section.

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