Javier v. AG — immigration — deny and dismiss — Greenaway
At the government’s request, the Third Circuit today issued as precedential an opinion it previously had issued as non-precedential, holding that a conviction under Pennsylvania’s terroristic-threats statute (18 Pa Cons. Stat. 2706(a)(1)) categorically qualifies as a crime involving moral turpitude to support removal. The statute makes it a crime to “communicate, either directly or indirectly, a threat to:  commit any crime of violence with intent to terrorize another.” The court rejected the petitioner’s argument that, because “any crime of violence” includes simple assault and because simple assault is not turpitudinous, therefore the statute included non-turpitudinous conduct. The court reasoned that the turpitude derives from the intent to terrorize. The opinion disagreed with a 2010 non-precedential opinion, Larios v. AG, 402 F. App’x 705 (3d Cir. 2010) (Jordan, joined by Fuentes and Aldisert).
Joining Greenaway were Vanaskie and Shwartz. The case was decided without oral argument.
The title of my original post about today’s opinion in Javier was, “can the government deport you for threatening to slap someone?”
The court’s answer to that question is that, yes, you can be deported for threatening to slap someone, even though you can’t be deported for actually slapping someone, because an element of a conviction for threats is intent to terrorize.
But the Javier opinion’s reasoning contains a serious gap, in my view: does “intent to terrorize” require anything more, under Pennsylvania law, than ‘intent to make the person think you actually will assault them’? Because, if it doesn’t, then I see no sense in saying assaults aren’t categorically turpitudinous but mere threats to assault are. After all, we’d all agree that hitting someone is worse than making them afraid that you’re going to hit them, no?
I’m not an expert on Pennsylvania criminal law, so I don’t know if “intent to terrorize” requires more than the fear that would result from any believed threat of assault, but the opinion’s failure to discuss the point is concerning.