Snapchat, weapons access allowed as evidence in trial for threats case
A St. Croix County judge on Friday made rulings on key pieces of evidence as the case of a 19-year-old New Richmond man accused of terroristic threats heads to trial.
In a written decision, Judge Edward Vlack decided evidence regarding defendant Nicholas Cherrier's background and access to guns and ammunition will be allowed at the trial, but granted the defense's request to not allow several messages, photos and a video. This content includes racial and sexual references, photos of Cherrier with weapons and video taken of individuals climbing through the ceiling tile at New Richmond High School.
One image referencing the Columbine shooting and a Snapchat text to a friend containing comment about "when we shoot up the school" will be allowed as evidence in the trial, as well as Cherrier's internet history with searches for weapons and body armor.
Cherrier has pleaded not guilty to one felony count of terroristic threats stemming from a March incident at his former workplace in Hudson. Prosecutors allege he told coworkers he intended to "shoot kids" — a claim defense attorney Mark Gherty contends was merely a bad joke.
A five-day jury trial in the case is set to begin Sept. 17.
Vlack will also allow testimony from employees of Cherrier's former workplace, providing the testimony comes from a person with personal knowledge of the alleged statement.
Statements from two people interviewed during the investigation will not be allowed by Vlack, while a third statement may be allowed depending on source and background.
Gherty requested the court exclude any evidence relating to fear or public inconvenience following news reports of Cherrier's arrest. Any such panic, Gherty argued, was prompted by law enforcement arresting Cherrier, rather than any words or actions by Cherrier himself.
The prosecution stated that it is reasonable to expect someone hearing such comments from Cherrier would share them with others and law enforcement, leading media to take note and report on it.
Vlack stated the question of if the threat itself lead to public fear or panic is one for the jury.
It will make that determination as well as deciding if the prosecution proved that Cherrier had made a threat, and if so, if he was aware of the risk of creating public fear, panic or inconvenience with that threat.
The jury will be instructed to decide if the statement allegedly made by Cherrier is a true threat.
A true threat is defined as a statement made by a reasonable person, who could then see how another reasonable person would interpret that statement as a possible serious expression of harm, rather than an exaggeration or a joke.
The facts known to both the listener and the speaker of the statement are relevant in determining if the statement is a true threat, Vlack stated.