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The Minnesota Court of Appeals on Tuesday upheld the convictions of a former nurse who hunted for suicidal people in online chat rooms and encouraged two to kill themselves, saying his actions were not protected speech.

William Melchert-Dinkel, 49, of Faribault, was convicted in 2011 of two counts of aiding suicide. He acknowledged that what he did was morally wrong but argued that he merely exercised his right to free speech. The appeals court disagreed.

"We are confident that the Constitution does not immunize Melchert-Dinkel's morbid, predatory behavior simply because it appears in the form of written words," the justices' 31-page decision said.

Melchert-Dinkel's attorney, Terry Watkins, said that while his client's actions are unsavory, he still believes they are protected by the First Amendment. He plans to appeal to the state Supreme Court.

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