After Governor Sisolak’s recent State of the State address, he and his wife were threatened by two individuals at a local restaurant. But “free speech” may not be all that free when it concerns intimidation of a public officer in Nevada.
This encounter has come at a time when these types of threats have become much more commonplace against officials, with public intimidation of lawmakers surging in recent years. The governor’s office, while saying that the incident was being investigated, did not comment on whether he would press charges.
How Nevada Law Regards the Intimidation of a Public Official
For those who have been heavily involved in exercising their freedom of speech, there comes a point when it is considered a criminal offense. There are multiple laws on the books regarding crimes against public officials, one of which concerns intimidation.
Intimidation of officials within the government can be a serious offense and can be harshly punished.
Under N.R.S. 199.300, “a person shall not, directly or indirectly, address any threat or intimidation to a public officer, public employee, juror, referee, arbitrator, assessor or any person authorized by law to hear or determine any controversy or matter, with the intent to induce such person contrary to his or her duty to do, make, omit or delay any act, decision, or determination” when a threat communicates the intention to cause bodily injury, cause physical damage to property, subject the person to physical confinement or restraint, or otherwise threaten harm to another person’s health, safety, business, financial or other personal relationships.
The penalties for violation will vary depending on the intimidation and whether physical force was used or threatened. Even a first-time offense can be considered a Category C felony when physical force is threatened.
Will the Intimidator Be Prosecuted?
Will the perpetrator of this intimidation be held accountable? If history is any indication, the answer may be “yes.” State prosecutors have done so in the past few years, even prosecuting a 60-year-old Clark County resident in December of 2020 for making threats against Sisolak on his social media posts, although the man was later found not guilty.
In the meantime, the intimidator, in this case, has only become more fueled by his notoriety. The self-described “patriot” has a podcast that claims to “shine a light on the darkest corners of modern culture.” He swiftly held a new conference, refusing to apologize for “holding public officials responsible for their choices,” further blaming Mr. Sisolak for his job loss and the loss of his medical benefits.
Violations of N.R.S. 199.300 can range from up to a year in county jail and fines of up to $2,000 to a prison sentence of up to 10 years with fines up to $10,000. Perhaps Mr. Sisolak’s intimidator should be spending his time interviewing a criminal defense attorney instead.