Top court reviews free speech case of man's anti-police rap

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Pennsylvania's highest court is reviewing the conviction of a Pittsburgh man for making threats against police in a rap song after he was charged with drug offenses.

The Supreme Court on Monday said it would take up an appeal by Jamal Knox, who argues his song, which was briefly posted online, is protected by the right to free speech. Knox wants the court to set aside his convictions for witness intimidation and making terroristic threats.

"Just because a police officer arrests you, doesn't mean you are stripped of any free speech ability to say, 'Wait a minute, that officer did me wrong, and here's why I think so,'" Knox's lawyer Patrick K. Nightingale said Tuesday.

The Allegheny County district attorney's office, which declined comment for this story, told Superior Court last year the song "was not mere political hyperbole but, rather, the sort of 'true threat' that is not protected by the First Amendment."

The case began with an April 2012 traffic stop in the city's East Liberty section, when Knox, now 22, drove away after telling an officer he did not have a valid driver's license. Following a chase in which he hit a parked car and a fence, police found 15 bags of heroin and $1,500 on Knox and a stolen, loaded gun in the vehicle.

Seven months later, an officer came across the video online, performed by Knox under the name "Mayhem Mal" of the "Ghetto Superstar Committee" with co-defendant Rashee Beasley — and accompanied by photos of them both. Knox and Beasley posted another video in which they said they wrote the song.

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