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ARGUED NOVEMBER 3, 2009

Before EASTERBROOK, Chief Judge, and WOOD and TINDER, Circuit Judges.

Shortly before the date of her disciplinary hearing at the Cook County Treasurer’s Office, Maria Avila told a friend (and co-worker) that she could “go postal”; she advised the friend to duck. Concerned that Avila might be serious, the friend told her superiors. Police attended the hearing, and the implied threat became another ground of discipline. Avila was fired and criminally prosecuted. Illinois law treats as a felony a threat against a public official; otherwise a threat is a misdemeanor. Compare 720 ILCS 5/12-9 with 720 ILCS 5/12-2(a)(10). The State’s Attorney of Cook County charged Avila with a felony, on the ground that Michael Shine, one of three persons Avila had mentioned as potential targets, was a public official because the Treasurer had appointed him to an office created by statute. See 720 ILCS 5/12-9(b)(1). Avila was acquitted at a bench trial after the state judge concluded that Shine was not a public official under §5/12-9(b)(1).

 
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