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The Game's troublesome tweets are protected speech, lawyer says

August 15, 2011 | 12:49 pm

Rapper The Game arrives at the BET Awards held at the Shrine Auditorium on June 26 in Los Angeles.

This post has been corrected. Please see note at bottom for details.

Some legal experts says authorities have an uphill battle if they try to prosecute rapper the Game for allegedly sending a tweet that prompted fans to jam the phone lines of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department's Compton station.

Officials vow to bring a criminal case to the L.A. County district attorney's office over the so-called phone flash mob.

A message posted on the Game's Twitter account last week encouraged his 580,000 followers to telephone if they wanted an internship. The Tweet gave no indication that the phone number was the Compton station's official help line.

Defense attorney Mark Geragos said that trying to criminalize tweets or Facebook messages runs "smack dab" into the 1st Amendment.

"It's a very nuanced area," Geragos said of speech in social media. "But in this case it doesn't come close to being criminal. You are talking about expressing ideas," Geragos said. "It's no different when political action committees tell their followers in advance of a vote to contact their congressman or senator by phone or by email.

If the Game specifically told his followers to tie up the 911 system or hack into an internal database, Geragos said there could be potential criminal exposure. But he said it wasn't clear by The Game's stream of tweets that he specifically intended to have his followers call the Compton sheriff's station, even though he posted the number.

"Calling a number or contacting law enforcement, even if it's a hang-up, is not a crime," Geragos said.

Deputies have yet to make contact with the rapper, who "would be very well inclined to call us," said Sheriff's Capt. Mike Parker.

"We're still waiting for a Twitter message with an apology or a retraction or 'this was a bad idea,' " Parker said. "We're waiting for something that sends a message out that people's lives are more important than playing around."

But the rapper, whose real name is Jayceon Terrell Taylor, seemed less than apologetic.

He retweeted a Times article about the prank and then blamed the stunt on a friend, warning the alleged culprit: "you betta sleep wit jeans on tonite homie. … Sheriffs come knockin' don't be in ya pajamas."

[For the Record, 2:21 p.m. Aug. 15: An earlier version of this post left out a first name and title for Sheriff's Capt. Mike Parker.]


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Photo: Rapper The Game arrives at the BET Awards at the Shrine Auditorium on June 26. Credit: Jason Merritt / Getty Images