By Debbie Gregory.
Missouri resident Eric L. Rapert left the Army under a cloud, court-martialed on charges that including making what sounded like racist threats against President Barack Obama.
Now the nation’s highest military appeals court has upheld the ruling.
The case defined the boundaries governing free speech by members of the military, underscoring that soldiers are more restricted than civilians when it comes to the First Amendment.
“The right of free speech in the armed services is not unlimited and must be brought into balance with the paramount consideration of providing an effective fighting force for the defense of our country,” Judge Kevin A. Ohlson noted.
In its 3-2 decision, the military appeals court upheld Rapert’s court martial verdict in regards to his remarks against Obama on the night of the 2012 election. At the time, Rapert was an Army enlisted man with the rank of specialist who was serving in Hawaii.
Witnesses said Rapert had voiced anger that “that (n-word) won this election” and then made what sounded like threats. Although he later said that he was joking, Rapert said:
“I might have to go back home … and break out the KKK robe that was handed down to me by my grandfather and go put one order up and make it my last order to kill the president.”
There is no evidence that Rapert or his family had any connection to the Ku Klux Klan. That’s not to say that Rapert isn’t still a bad guy. In 2013, Rapert was convicted of committing a lewd act with a child, assault of a child consummated by battery, and sexual abuse of a child.