The decision to secretly authorise Air Force One and a fighter jet to perform a low-level fly-by that sent New Yorkers and office workers in Jersey City fleeing for their lives may be a felony under New Jersey law.
After circling above the Hudson River, the planes made a terrifying turn toward the tower that houses offices of Goldman Sachs, according to eyewitnesses. Office workers in New Jersey’s Jersey City literally sprinted away from windows, fearing the plane would ram their building.
New Jersey law makes “terroristic threats” a felony. In the circumstances described above, the plane’s flight may be a third-degree felony.
“A person is guilty of a crime of the third degree if he threatens to kill another with the purpose to put him in imminent fear of death under circumstances reasonably causing the victim to believe the immediacy of the threat and the likelihood that it will be carried out.”
Courts use three material elements when evaluating a terroristic threats charge in New Jersey: (1) the accused made a threat; (2) the threat was to commit an offence of violence; and (3) the threat was made with the purpose of terrorizing or acted with reckless disregard of the risk that third parties would react in this manner.
The key here is that there doesn’t actually have to be a specific intent to terrorize. Just a reckless disregard that others would be terrorized. We have no doubt that a jury could easily find that the plane’s flight plan amounted to reckless disregard that office workers would perceive a terrorist threat of death.
Just imagine what would happen to any private citizen who carried out this kind of fly-by. This isn’t just a matter of finding out who should be fired for today’s insane debacle. The question is who should be prosecuted.