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Judge dismisses Twitter stalking case on free-speech grounds

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They said the tweets caused Zeoli "substantial emotional distress," and she was so afraid for her safety that she did not leave her house for a year and a half, except to see her psychiatrist. 

But Judge Roger W. Titus ruled that Cassidy's public tweets were more like posts on a bulletin board than a direct letter or phone call.

"One does not have to walk over and look at another person's bulletin board; nor does one Blog or Twitter user have to see what is posted on another person's Blog or Twitter account," Titus wrote in his ruling. "This is in sharp contrast to a telephone call, letter or e-mail specifically addressed to and directed at another person."

He said the First Amendment gives stronger protections to public announcements than to direct messages, like a phone call. He noted that Zeoli could have blocked Cassidy and ignored his tweets.

The judge also said that some of the tweets questioned Zeoli's qualifications as a religious leader, making them politically protected speech.

"While Mr. Cassidy’s speech may have inflicted substantial emotional distress, the government’s indictment here is directed squarely at protected speech: anonymous, uncomfortable Internet speech addressing religious matters," Titus wrote.

Zeoli's lawyer told The New York Times his client was “appalled and frightened by the judge’s ruling.”