October 10, 2017
information charging the defendant with the crimes of
criminal mischief in the fourth degree and disorderly
conduct, brought to the Superior Court in the judicial
district of Fairfield, geographical area number two, and
tried to the jury before Dennis, J.;
verdict and judgment of guilty of disorderly conduct, from
which the defendant appealed to the Appellate Court,
Keller, Prescott and West,
Js., which reversed the trial court's judgment
and remanded the case to that court with direction to render
a judgment of acquittal, and the state, on the granting of
certification, appealed to this court. Affirmed.
Mitchell S. Brody, senior assistant state's attorney,
with whom, on the brief, were John C. Smriga, state's
attorney, and Michael A. DeJoseph, Jr., senior assistant
state's attorney, for the appellant (state).
A. Pattis, for the appellee (defendant).
Palmer, McDonald, Robinson, D'Auria, Mullins and Kahn,
defendant, Laurence V. Parnoff, uttered threatening words to
two water company employees who had entered his property
pursuant to an easement to service a fire hydrant-telling
them, essentially, that if they did not leave his property,
he would retrieve a gun and shoot them. As a result of his
statement, the defendant was convicted after a jury trial of
disorderly conduct in violation of General Statutes §
53a-182 (a) (1), which criminalizes intentionally or
recklessly causing inconvenience, annoyance, or alarm by way
of ‘‘violent, tumultuous or threatening behavior
. . . .'' The defendant appealed to the Appellate
Court from the judgment of conviction, arguing that, under
principles stemming from the first amendment to the United
States constitution, there was insufficient evidence to
sustain a guilty verdict as to the disorderly conduct charge.
State v. Parnoff, 160 Conn.App. 270, 274,
125 A.3d 573 (2015). Because the behavior giving rise to his
conviction was pure speech and not physical violence, the
first amendment forbids the imposition of criminal sanctions
unless that speech amounts to so-called
‘‘fighting words''-words that would cause
a reasonable addressee to respond with imminent violence
under the circumstances. (Internal quotation marks omitted.)
State v. Baccala, 326 Conn. 232, 234-35,
251, 163 A.3d 1, cert. denied, U.S., 138 S.Ct. 510, 199
L.Ed.2d 408 (2017); see also U.S. Const., amend. I. The
Appellate Court reversed the judgment after concluding that
the defendant's statement was not fighting words because,
although inappropriate, the defendant's words were not
likely to provoke an immediate and violent reaction from the
water company employees. State v. Parnoff,
supra, 281. We agree with the Appellate Court and affirm its
jury reasonably could have found the following facts. On the
day of the incident, two employees of the Aquarion Water
Company (water company) were sent to the defendant's
property to perform fire hydrant maintenance. One of the two
employees, Kyle Lavin, was an apprentice level employee
working his fourth summer for the water company performing
hydrant maintenance. Lavin needed assistance locating a fire
hydrant on the defendant's property that he was scheduled
to routinely service, and he called fellow water company
employee David Lathlean to help him. Lath-lean was an
experienced employee, having worked for the water company for
approximately ten years. Although the fire hydrant was
located on the defendant's private property, the water
company had a preexisting easement that spanned a radius of
twenty feet beyond the fire hydrant and hydrant
and Lathlean arrived at the defendant's property in
separate company branded trucks, wearing bright yellow
company branded safety shirts and identification badges. They
entered the property together and located the hydrant down a
long driveway through a wooded area, approximately 100 feet
from the defendant's residence. Upon inspecting the fire
hydrant, Lavin and Lathlean discovered that one of its caps
was missing. They then began to look for the cap in the
vicinity of the hydrant, including in an open-ended shed with
a canopy roof located several yards away. Lathlean entered
the open-ended shed and discovered the hydrant's missing
cap, which appeared to have a garden hose fitting welded into
it. This indicated to Lathlean that someone had tampered with
the hydrant because the water company does not permit the
removal or modification of hydrant caps. As a result, the two
employees called another water company employee, Beverly
Doyle, who handled theft of service investigations.
thereafter, the defendant's daughter, who had just
arrived at the property to visit her parents, and the
defendant's wife were approached by the water company
employees. Lathlean first spoke to the defendant's
daughter, conveying to her that he suspected someone had
tampered with the hydrant. The daughter testified that
Lathlean was ‘‘[n]ot very nice, loud, ''
defendant then appeared and approached Lavin and Lathlean to
confront them about their presence on the property. The
defendant was wearing shorts and no shirt, and he appeared
disheveled. He was also carrying a can that he was using to
collect worms from the ground in order to go fishing with his
grandson, who was elsewhere on the property. Lavin looked on
as Lathlean explained to the defendant that they were
employed by the water company to perform hydrant maintenance
and had discovered the altered hydrant cap. According to
Lavin, the defendant was very upset, throwing his arms up and
down, yelling, and he told them to leave his property
Lathlean's explanation, the defendant told Lavin and
Lathlean that they had no right to be on his property.
According to Lathlean, the defendant then told him that,
‘‘if [they] didn't get off his property, he
was going to get a gun or something like that . . . [t]o
shoot [them].'' Although the defendant did not speak
directly to Lavin, Lavin testified that he heard the
defendant say, ‘‘ ‘if you go into my shed,
I'm going to go into my house, get my gun and [fucking]
kill you.' ''
called the police, but the two employees remained on the
property, even though they were trained by the water company
to leave if a property owner became angry. Lathlean gave no
outward reaction to the defendant's statement, testifying
that ‘‘it just bounced right off [of]
me'' and that ‘‘I just stood there and
was like, okay then, you know, let's see what
happens.'' Lathlean also testified that he was not
frightened by the defendant's words. In fact, when
Lathlean called the police, he referred to the defendant as
merely ‘‘ ‘a little crabby' ''
and did not report anything about a gun. Although Lavin
testified that the defendant's words
‘‘[a]bsolutely'' caused him alarm and
trepidation, like Lathlean, he remained on the property.
Nothing in Lavin's testimony indicated that he believed
that the defendant was armed, and, thus, it did not appear
that he was immediately capable of carrying out the threat.
The defendant made no effort to return to his house to
retrieve a gun.
making the gun comment, the defendant walked away from Lavin
and Lathlean and toward a nearby, fenced off animal pen.
Lathlean began following the defendant around his property as
the defendant continued to search for worms to collect. The
defendant continued to repeatedly ask Lavin and Lathlean to
leave his property. Around this time, Doyle arrived to
investigate possible water contamination as a result of the
tampering, and the defendant told her to leave the property
Lathlean called the police, the defendant also called the
police himself to report the incident. When the police
officers arrived, the defendant admitted he had told Lavin
and Lathlean he would shoot them with a gun. The officers
repeatedly asked the defendant to step back so that they
could privately interview the water company employees. When
the defendant repeatedly refused to leave the immediate area,
he was arrested. He was later charged with disorderly conduct
in violation of § 53a-182 (a) (1) and fourth degree
criminal mischief in violation of General Statutes §
53a-117a (a) (1) for tampering with the fire hydrant. The
jury found the defendant not guilty of criminal mischief but
found him guilty of disorderly conduct.
defendant appealed to the Appellate Court, which reversed the
judgment of conviction, remanded the case to the trial court,
and directed that court to render a judgment of acquittal on
the disorderly conduct charge. After reviewing the entire
record, the Appellate Court concluded that the state had
failed to present sufficient evidence to establish beyond a
reasonable doubt that the defendant's statements were
likely to provoke an immediate violent reaction, and, thus,
they were not fighting words. State v.
Parnoff, supra, 160 Conn.App. 281.
granted the state's petition for certification to appeal,
limited to the following question: ‘‘Did the
Appellate Court correctly determine, in its de novo review of
the record, that there was insufficient evidence to support
the defendant's conviction of disorderly conduct pursuant
to . . . § 53a-182 (a) (1) because the state's proof
of that offense's threat element did not satisfy the
first amendment's ‘fighting words'
doctrine?'' State v. Parnoff, 320
Conn. 901, 901-902, 127 A.3d 185 (2015). Reviewing the record
ourselves, we agree with the Appellate Court that there was
insufficient evidence to sustain the defendant's
defendant was convicted of violating § 53a-182 (a) (1),
which provides in relevant part that a person is guilty of
disorderly conduct when, ‘‘with intent to cause
inconvenience, annoyance or alarm, or recklessly creating a
risk thereof, such person . . . [e]ngages in fighting or in
violent, tumultuous or threatening behavior . . . .''
The ‘‘behavior'' giving rise to the
conviction can consist of either physical actions or pure
speech not accompanied by physical actions. State v.
Symkiewicz, 237 Conn. 613, 618-20, 678 A.2d 473
(1996), citing State v. Indrisano, 228
Conn. 795, 811-12, 640 A.2d 986 (1994). When the behavior
giving rise to the conviction is pure speech, as in the
present case, the disorderly conduct statute intersects with
the first amendment, which is applicable to the states
through the fourteenth amendment to the federal constitution;
State v. Moulton, 310 Conn. 337, 348, 78
A.3d 55 (2013); and prohibits laws ‘‘abridging
the freedom of speech . . . .'' U.S. Const., amend.
first amendment bars the states from criminalizing pure
speech, unless that speech falls into one of a few
constitutionally unprotected categories. State
v. Moulton, supra, 310 Conn. 348-49. Therefore,
the disorderly conduct statute can proscribe
‘‘[o]nly certain types of narrowly defined speech
[that] are not afforded the full protections of the first
amendment, including fighting words . . . .''
(Internal quotation marks omitted.) State v.
Baccala, supra, 326 Conn. 234.
words'' are defined as speech that has
‘‘a direct tendency to cause acts of violence by
the person to whom, individually, the remark is
addressed.'' (Internal quotation marks omitted.)
Id. To qualify as unprotected fighting words, the
speech must be ‘‘likely to provoke an
imminent violent response from the
[addressee].'' (Emphasis added.) Id., 251.
The imminence of a response is based on ‘‘the
likelihood of actual violence, [and] not [merely] an
undifferentiated fear or apprehension of disturbance . . .
.'' (Emphasis omitted; internal quotation marks
omitted.) Id., 248. Fighting words must immediately
cause the addressee to resort to violence such that the
speech is ‘‘akin to dropping a match into a pool
of gasoline.'' (Internal quotation marks omitted.)
first amendment also does not protect speech that qualifies
as ‘‘[t]rue threats.'' State v.
Pelella, 327 Conn. 1, 10, 170 A.3d 647 (2017).
‘‘True threats encompass those statements [in
which] the speaker means to communicate a serious expression
of an intent to commit an act of unlawful violence to a
particular individual or group . . . .'' (Internal
quotation marks omitted.) Id. The state, however,
did not pursue a true threats theory of criminal
liability. Accordingly, like the jury, we have no
occasion to determine whether the defendant's utterance
qualified as a ‘‘true threat, '' and,
therefore, we analyze this case solely under the fighting
assessing whether the defendant's conviction was proper
because his statements were fighting words, we undertake a
two part sufficiency of the evidence test, which includes an
independent review of the record due to the fact that the
defendant's first amendment rights are implicated.
State v. Baccala, supra, 326 Conn. 250-51.
First, ‘‘we construe the evidence in the light
most favorable to sustaining the verdict. . . . Second, we
determine whether the trier of fact could have concluded from
those facts and reasonable inferences drawn therefrom that
the cumulative force of the evidence established guilt beyond
a reasonable doubt.'' (Citation omitted.)
certain cases involving the regulation of free speech, such
as this one, we ‘‘apply a de novo standard of
review [as] the inquiry into the protected status of . . .
speech is one of law, not fact. . . . As such, an appellate
court is compelled to examine for [itself] the . . .
statements [at] issue and the circumstances under which they
[were] made to [determine] whether . . . they . . . are of a
character [that] the principles of the [f]irst [a]mendment .
. . protect [them].'' (Internal quotation marks
omitted.) State v. Krijger, 313 Conn. 434,
446, 97 A.3d 946 (2014). Therefore, ‘‘an
appellate court has an obligation to make an independent
examination of the whole record in order to make sure that
the judgment does not constitute a forbidden intrusion [in]
the field of free expression.'' (Internal quotation
marks omitted.) Id.
independent scrutiny, however, ‘‘does not
authorize us to make credibility determinations regarding
disputed issues of fact. Although we review de novo the trier
of fact's ultimate determination that the statements at
issue constituted [fighting words], we accept all subsidiary
credibility determinations and findings that are not clearly
erroneous.'' Id., 447. In determining what
credibility determinations the jury likely made, we take the
version of the facts that most supports the verdict. See
id., 447-48. In this case, the jury found the
defendant guilty of disorderly conduct, so we may presume
that the jury credited either Lavin's or Lathlean's
testimony, which was consistent with the defendant's
statement to police admitting that he had uttered words of a
threatening nature. See State v. Parnoff,
supra, 169 Conn.App. 273-74.
recently undertook such an analysis and expounded on the
scope of the fighting words doctrine in State v.
Baccala, supra, 326 Conn. 238,  explaining that
‘‘there are no per se fighting words.''
Instead, we must consider ‘‘the quality of the
words themselves, '' as well as ‘‘the
manner and circumstances in which the words were spoken . . .
.'' (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Id.,
239-40. In Baccala, a grocery store customer berated
a store manager using extremely vulgar terms, including
‘‘fat ugly bitch, '' ‘‘cunt,
'' and ‘‘fuck you . . . .''
(Internal quotation marks omitted.) Id., 235, 236.
We stated that, ‘‘[e]ven when words are
threatening on their face, careful attention must be paid to
the context . . . to determine if the words may be
objectively perceived as threatening.'' (Internal
quotation marks omitted.) Id., 246. Our decision in
Baccala further emphasized that we must undertake a
fighting words analysis with a ‘‘case-by-case,
'' ‘‘contextual'' examination;
id., 245-46; that requires
‘‘consideration of the actual circumstances as
perceived by a reasonable speaker and addressee to determine
whether there was a likelihood of violent
retaliation.'' Id., 240.
analysis ‘‘necessarily includes a consideration
of a host of factors.'' Id. One factor is
‘‘those personal attributes of the speaker and
the addressee that are reasonably apparent because they are
necessarily a part of the objective situation in which the
speech was made. . . . Courts have, for example, considered
the age, gender, race, and status of the speaker.''
(Citations omitted.) Id., 241-42. In other words,
the reasonable person standard includes an analysis of the
‘‘objectively apparent characteristics''
of a speaker and addressee that would bear on the likelihood
of an imminently violent response to the speaker's words.
Id., 243. The context also includes consideration of
the ‘‘attendant circumstances, '' such as
‘‘the manner in which the words were uttered,
[and] by whom and to whom the words were uttered . . .
.'' Id., 250. Particularly, this objective
standard ‘‘properly distinguishes between the
average citizen''; id., 243; and someone in
a position who ‘‘would reasonably be expected to
. . . exercise a higher degree of restratint . . .
.'' Id., 245; see id., 250
(concluding that objective ‘‘inquiry must focus
on the perspective of an average store manager'').
these principles to the present case, we are not persuaded
that the defendant's threatening words, unaccompanied by
any effectuating action, were likely to provoke an imminent
and violent reaction from the water company employees at whom
those words were directed.
examine first the nature and ‘‘quality of the
words'' that the defendant used and how that bears on
the likelihood of imminent violence. (Internal quotation
marks omitted.) Id., 239. The defendant's
statement, even though conditional, could no doubt be
understood as threatening. See State v.
Pelella, supra, 327 Conn. 16 n.15 (conditional
nature of threat does not preclude it from being considered
threat for first amendment purposes). In the context of true
threats, conditioning an intentional threat to do harm on
some uncertain act or omission does not necessarily cleanse
it of its threatening nature. Instead, ‘‘[t]o the
extent that a threat's conditionality is relevant, we
look to whether the threat nonetheless constitutes a serious
expression of intent to harm.'' Id. We
believe this proposition is also instructive in the fighting
words context, as we examine how a reasonable addressee would
have interpreted and reacted to the defendant's
utterance. See State v. Baccala, supra, 326
case, it is reasonable to presume that an addressee in the
position of the water company employees would understand the
defendant's statement to be threatening, even though it
was conditioned on further action or inaction by the water
company employees. The defendant indicated he was going to
retrieve a gun and either ‘‘shoot'' or
‘‘[fucking] kill'' the employees if they
remained on his property or went into his shed. A reasonable
person hearing either version would likely recognize its
threatening nature. Therefore, we do not doubt that, under
certain circumstances, such a statement could provoke a
reasonable person to retaliate with physical violence to
prevent the threat from being carried out.
even though threatening, we do not believe that the
defendant's statement, considered in context, was likely
to provoke an immediate and violent reaction because the
objectively apparent circumstances did not indicate any
immediate intent or ability on the part of the defendant to
carry out that threat. The evidence established that the
defendant was walking around, wearing only shorts, carrying
what appeared to be a can of worms, and otherwise appeared to
be unarmed. These facts indicate that the defendant would
need to retrieve a gun to carry out his threat, suggesting
his gun was at a different location and decreasing the
likelihood that an addressee would consider any danger so
imminent that he would feel compelled to react with violence
to dispel it. The defendant was not heading in the direction
of his residence, which was located approximately 100 feet
away, where, by one account of the defendant's statement,
he had said his gun was located. Instead, the defendant began
walking toward his animal pen while searching for worms.
Given that the defendant was in the presence of his family
and did not appear to have the immediate ability to carry out
his threat, his utterance was unlikely to constitute a
serious expression of intent to harm. Therefore, we doubt
that the defendant's statements, considered in context,
would be viewed as so threatening that they would incite the
average person in the water company employees' positions
to imminent violence.
improbability of a violent response is further supported by
examining the ‘‘personal attributes of the . . .
addressee[s] that are reasonably apparent . . . .''
State v. Baccala, supra, 326 Conn. 241. In
this case, Lavin and Lathlean were professionals performing
duties on behalf of the water company and acting within the
scope of their employment. Their status as employees was
readily identifiable, as they wore ‘‘bright
yellow safety shirt[s]'' with ‘‘Aquarion
Water Company'' printed on them and openly visible
identification badges. As professionals, the nature of their
daily work required them to service hydrants using easements
over private land without prior notice. This could
precipitate encounters with confrontational property owners
as part of their work. But because they were acting as
professionals representing the water company, they
‘‘would reasonably be expected to . . . exercise
a higher degree of restraint than the ordinary
citizen'' and, thus, would be unlikely to react
violently when faced with angry property owners. State
v. Baccala, supra, 245; see id., 250,
252-53 (concluding that objective ‘‘inquiry must
focus on the perspective of an average store
and Lavin's heightened level of professional restraint
undercuts the state's contention that the average
employee in either of their positions would strike the
defendant first to either forestall violence or, under the
state's more strained argument, to respond to the
‘‘insulting'' nature of the threat. In
Baccala, we noted that the store manager's role
required her to handle customer service matters and thus she
was ‘‘routinely confronted by disappointed,
frustrated customers who express themselves in angry terms .
. . .'' State v. Baccala, supra,
326 Conn. 253. We then concluded that the average manager
would be ‘‘expected to defuse hostile situations
. . . [and] model appropriate . . . behavior, aimed at
de-escalating the situation . . . .'' Id.
Although the addressees in the present case were not in
direct customer service roles, they too would be accustomed
to interacting with confrontational property owners-the water
company's customers-and, similarly, be expected to model
appropriate, de-escalating behavior.
concurrence contends that our analysis ‘‘focuses
too heavily'' on the ‘‘job duties of the
addressees . . . effectively extending one of the holdings of
Baccala, '' which the concurrence finds
‘‘distinguishable from the present case . . .
.'' See part II of the concurring opinion. We agree
with the concurrence that this case is different from
Baccala in that the addressees in the present case
‘‘had little control over the premises,
'' but we find that difference does not militate
against any consideration of the addressees' job
performance as part of the required contextual analysis.
After all, the fighting words doctrine dictates that we
consider the context of the speech and the
‘‘attendant circumstances'' when deciding
whether the utterance would cause immediate violence from the
average addressees. State v. Baccala,
supra, 326 Conn. 250. Notably, this objective standard
‘‘properly distinguishes between the average
citizen'' and someone in an employment position;
id., 243; who ‘‘would reasonably be
expected to . . . exercise a higher degree of restraint . . .
.'' Id., 245. Thus, our analysis does not
attempt to ‘‘equat[e]'' the two
employment circumstances as the concurrence claims, but,
rather, it simply considers-properly-as one of the
‘‘objectively apparent characteristics''
of the addressees; State v. Baccala, supra,
243; that they were water company employees, tasked with
entering strangers' properties, who would
‘‘be expected to . . . exercise a higher degree
of restraint, '' though perhaps to a lesser extent
than the average grocery store manager. Id., 244.
state argues that the average addressee would have reacted
with immediate violence because of the secluded, wooded
nature of the defendant's property. The state contends
this would cause the average addressee to feel
‘‘vulnerable'' and ‘‘exposed,
'' and, thus, more likely to strike the defendant to
forestall violence. It is true that, in Baccala, we
considered it significant that the store manager had
‘‘a degree of control over the premises where the
confrontation took place.'' State v.
Baccala, supra, 326 Conn. 253. Seclusion alone,
however, does not in our view elevate the circumstances in
the present case so as to satisfy the imminent violence
threshold. An average water company employee working in the
field in Connecticut would routinely be present on private
property in many settings, including in wooded areas, while
interacting with irritable property owners. The mere secluded
nature of the defendant's property does not convince us
that the employees were likely to react with imminent
violence, particularly given that there were two of them
present and a third on her way.
state also contends that the average addressee would have
been provoked to violence in order to ‘‘
‘beat [the defendant] to the punch,' '' or,
in other words, preemptively forestall the defendant from
carrying out his threat. We recognize that, although the
imminent violence standard is objective, of course certain
individuals might, under these circumstances, physically
react to forestall gun violence. Although this type of
preemptive self-defense is feasible, so are a variety of
other responses, such as retreat or de-escalating the
confrontation. Ultimately, we conclude that the
defendant's utterance falls short of provoking the
average person in these workers' positions to
react with immediate violence.
subjective analysis of the addressees' actual reactions
confirms our conclusion that it was unlikely that imminent
violence would follow from the defendant's words. Though
the fighting words standard is an objective inquiry, our
decision in Baccala underscored that examining the
subjective reaction of an addressee, although
‘‘not dispositive, '' may be
‘‘probative of the likelihood of a violent
reaction.'' State v. Baccala,
supra, 326 Conn. 254. Here, Lathlean gave no reaction
whatsoever-let alone a violent one. He testified that, not
only was he not frightened by the defendant's words, but,
rather, they ‘‘bounced right off'' him,
stating that, ‘‘I just stood there and was like,
okay then, you know, let's see what happens.''
Lathlean then proceeded to follow the defendant around the
property, even though he was trained to retreat in the event
that he encountered an angry property owner. In fact, when
Lathlean called the police, he characterized the defendant as
merely ‘‘ ‘a little crabby' ''
and made no mention at all of the defendant's gun threat.
Although Lavin acknowledged that the defendant's words
caused him ‘‘alarm'' and
‘‘trepidation, '' he too did not
outwardly react or leave the premises. Given that the
addressees' subjective reactions amounted to no reaction
at all, their dispassion supports our independent conclusion
that average water company employees in Lathlean's and
Lavin's circumstances who were confronted by the
defendant's threatening words, unaccompanied by any
effectuating action, and who are trained to retreat from
hostile situations, would not likely be incited to react
imminently and violently. Therefore, the defendant's
comments do not qualify as unprotected fighting words, and
there is insufficient evidence to sustain his conviction.
state also asserts that the Appellate Court erroneously
failed to consider the defendant's visible volatility
and, thus, failed to recognize the similarities between this
case and, among others, State v.
Symkiewicz, supra, 237 Conn. 613.We recognize that
the testimony in this case reflects that the defendant was in
fact ‘‘irate, '' ‘‘throwing
his arms up and down, yelling, '' and
‘‘very upset.'' Visible manifestations of
anger, however, coupled with the defendant's threatening
comments, do not, under these particular circumstances, meet
the high threshold of imminence required for the fighting
words exception. In Symkiewicz, the defendant did
make threatening comments that contributed to our conclusion
that they were fighting words, but that case is not analogous
to the present one because, in Symkiewicz, there was
additional inflammatory speech and circumstances. State
v. Symkiewicz, supra, 615-16.
addition to making a threat, the defendant in
Symkiewicz also loudly cursed, shouted epithets, and
sparked significant commotion in a gathering crowd.
Id., 615-16, 623. Specifically, the defendant loudly
barked ‘‘[f]uck you'' several times and
said, ‘‘[y]ou fucking bitch. I hope you burn in
hell for all eternity.'' (Internal quotation marks
omitted.) Id., 615-16. The defendant also made a
threat, and caused a crowd to form and a commotion among the
crowd. Id. Unlike in the present case, it was the
‘‘cumulative force'' of
‘‘[t]he combination'' of words and,
particularly, the consequent crowd commotion that elevated
those comments to fighting words. Id., 623. Notably,
these collective elements ‘‘could have aroused a
violent reaction by not only [the addressee], but also the
crowd''; (emphasis added) id.; and,
thus, the present case is not controlled by
Symkiewicz despite sharing the common element of
emphasize, as we did in Baccala, that we do not
suggest that threatening words directed at a water company
employee, or anyone else, may never constitute fighting
words. State v. Baccala,
supra, 326 Conn. 256. We also do not suggest that these
particular threatening words would not otherwise be criminal
as a true threat. But given that this utterance was not
fighting words and the state did not pursue a true threats
theory of liability in the present case, we cannot conclude
that the words uttered by the defendant in this context were
dissent concludes that the defendant's utterance
constitutes fighting words because he
‘‘introduced the prospect of firearms into [the]
exchange, '' and, thus, ‘‘he escalated
the confrontation beyond [servicing the hydrant] to first
amendment protection.'' We agree that the
defendant's words are of a different character than those
in Baccala, and we understand and appreciate the
dissent's efforts to signal the potentially criminal
nature of gun threats. As we have discussed, a true threat
has no value ...