I am not sure why police and prosecutors continue to ignore this part of the Constitution. I just wrote about Cameron D’Ambrosio in Massachusetts. Now there is another state trying to do it bigger and better. What better state to do bigger than Texas?
This involves an online argument between gamers who had been playing the game “League of Legends.” As teenagers do, there were throwing insults back and forth. The trash talk started on the League of Legends site, and then continued on Facebook. Then comes the following:
…and someone on Facebook called him crazy and messed up in the head.
So he responded in a sarcastic tone by saying something along the lines of ‘Oh yeah, I’m real messed up in the head, I’m going to go shoot up a school full of kids and eat their still, beating hearts’ which was followed by saying JK (just kidding) and LOL (laughing out loud). His response may have been in bad taste, but it was written in a non-threatening way that didn’t translate well online. None of his friends or family would even question his intention as anything other than a poor choice of words. Things got out of control, but my son is not a felon and terrorist as he’s currently being charged!
The actual Facebook post was
I think Ima shoot up a kindergarten / And watch the blood of the innocent rain down/ And eat the beating heart of one of them.
Reaction: A woman in Canada sees this post (as an aside, why was she trolling teenager’s Facebook pages) and saw the post. She googled the teen and found an old address of his close to an elementary school, and calls the local police in Texas. They start investigating and find that it was an old address and that he lived nowhere near an elementary school. However, based on the statement, they obtain a search warrant and search his house. Nothing is found at his home that would be evidence of any ability or intent to act on the generic statement.
Overreaction: Did a little thing like lack of evidence of intent or ability to commit a crime stop the police? Of course not. Justin Carter was arrested February 14th and charged with making Terroristic Threats (a common theme seems to be emerging) and has been kept in jail by a $500,000.00 bond.
Justin hasn’t been so lucky as a Texas grand jury did indict him, unlike Cameron D’Ambrosio.
“I have been practicing law for 10 years, I’ve represented murderers, terrorists, rapists. Anything you can think of. I have never seen a bond at $500,000,” says Carter’s attorney, Don Flanary.
Since Justin has been in jail, he has been beaten by other inmates on multiple occasions, he has been confined to solitary, confined to solitary naked due to “suicide concerns” and has generally been abused.
Here is § 22.07 of the Texas Penal Code:
§ 22.07. TERRORISTIC THREAT. (a) A person commits an
offense if he threatens to commit any offense involving violence to
any person or property with intent to:
(1) cause a reaction of any type to his threat by an
official or volunteer agency organized to deal with emergencies;
(2) place any person in fear of imminent serious
(3) prevent or interrupt the occupation or use of a
building, room, place of assembly, place to which the public has
access, place of employment or occupation, aircraft, automobile, or
other form of conveyance, or other public place;
(4) cause impairment or interruption of public
communications, public transportation, public water, gas, or power
supply or other public service;
(5) place the public or a substantial group of the
public in fear of serious bodily injury; or
(6) influence the conduct or activities of a branch or
agency of the federal government, the state, or a political
subdivision of the state.
District Attorney Jennifer Tharp who is prosecuting the case is sticking with #2 as her theory. That means that she will have to prove that Justin posted the statements with the intent of placing a person or persons in fear of imminent bodily harm; i.e., a “True Threat.” Even without the qualifiers of “LOL” and “J/K,” the statement in and of itself has no specificity. Add the “LOL” and J/K,” and there is no intent as well as no specificity. The scary part is that Justin may very well be convicted and it may take a federal judge to correct this situation.
The attitude of the police is actually pretty correct:
“The whole situation is kind of unfortunate,” said New Braunfels Police Lt. John Wells. “We definitely understand the situation that Mr. Carter is in, however he made the comments, and it is an offense. We have to … protect the general public and specifically, in this case, with it involving schoolchildren, we have to act. We take those very seriously.”
The issue comes that after investigating and finding nothing, that should have been the end of it. There should have been no arrest as there were no elementary schoolchildren ever placed in fear of imminent danger, and the police know it.
Justin has had one bright spot in all of this. On Thursday, an anonymous “Good Samaritan” posted the $500,000.00 bond so at least Justin is no longer suffering in jail. Let us hope his luck is actually turning. Please consider signing the petition at Change.org.