When do words become harassment?

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The Des Moines media have been strongly reporting the recent arrest of Jason Storm, a former assistant football coach at Lincoln High School who yelled at a referee during a game last week. Reports have indicated that Storm was angry that his quarterback son was hit with a helmet-to-helmet tackle and no penalty flag was thrown.

The United States Constitution guarantees citizens the right to freedom of speech, but Iowa law places limits on what one can say to another.

Iowa Code Chapter 708.7 defines harassment, the crime with which Storm is now charged. In the code, a person commits harassment when the person, purposefully and without legitimate purpose, has personal contact with another person, with the intent to threaten, intimidate, or alarm that other person. It also indicates that threats to commit a forcible felony also reach the level of harassment. WHO Radio has reported that Storm is accused of threatening to “kill” the official.

“Gestures are also covered so a person drawing a finger across their throat while glaring at another could be charged with harassment without ever saying a word,” Knoxville Police Chief Dan Losada told the Tribune.

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