Free speech can cost you your freedom. :
(CNN) - It was a sarcastic Facebook comment during an argument about a video game. And, according to the father of 19-year-old Justin Carter, it was enough to land his son behind bars for months, facing the possibility of years in prison.
Carter, who is currently on suicide watch in Comal County Jail near San Antonio, Texas, has been locked up since February. He faces a charge of making terroristic threats, a felony that could theoretically bring a sentence of up to eight years.
"He's very depressed. He's very scared and he's very concerned that he's not going to get out," Jack Carter, Justin's father, told CNN on Tuesday. "He's pretty much lost all hope."
In February, Justin, then 18, and a friend were arguing on Facebook with someone else over the online video game "League of Legends."
"Someone had said something to the effect of 'Oh you're insane. You're crazy. You're messed up in the head,'" Jack Carter told CNN affiliate KVUE in Austin. "To which he replied '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.'"
According to court documents, Justin wrote "I'm f---ed in the head alright. I think I'ma (sic) shoot up a kindergarten and watch the blood of the innocent rain down and eat the beating heart of one of them."
Jack Carter said his son followed the claim with "LOL" and "J/K" -- indicating that the comment wasn't serious.
But someone else -- Carter says a woman in Canada -- noticed the comment and reported it to authorities. Coming two months after the deadly shootings at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, the report wasn't taken lightly. According to court documents, Carter lived less than a half-mile from an elementary school in New Braunfels, Texas.
A search warrant was issued on February 13 and, a week later, a judge issued a warrant for his arrest.
"I thought it was a joke," Jack Carter told CNN. "I couldn't believe the person that called me. I kept telling them they have to be kidding. When I realized he wasn't, I literally broke down crying."
A judge set bond for Justin Carter at $500,000, meaning that 10% of that, or $50,000, would have to be posted to get him out of jail while he awaits trial. His lawyer, Donald H. Flanary III, says that's far more than his family can afford.
"It's outrageous," Flanary, who is working the case for free, told CNN Tuesday. "I've represented murderers and their bond was $150,000."
Flanary said he planned to meet with Justin Carter Tuesday afternoon and ask a judge for the bond to be reduced. He said police didn't find any weapons or other items to suggest that Justin's comment was serious, but that, "in the times we're living in, it was kind of a perfect storm."
"The law enforcement, the sheriff's department, the district attorney's office -- nobody wants to be the one that let him go," Flanary said. "They don't think about the person or the crime or the lack of crime ... they don't want to take responsibility for something happening in the future."
A spokeswoman for the police department in Austin, where Justin was originally jailed, referred a request for comment and arrest documents to neighboring New Braunfels Police. A police department spokesman there did not immediately respond to a similar request.
Meanwhile, people have come together online to support the jailed teen.
A Change.org petition titled "Release Justin Carter and Change the Investigative Criteria for Terroristic Threat Laws" had received nearly 35,000 digital signatures as of Tuesday afternoon.
"Too many teenagers are being arrested, jailed and having their lives forever altered because of anti-terrorism laws and investigations that impede their 1st Amendment right to freedom of speech," reads the petition.
Jack Carter says that, as a parent, he understands why authorities are so vigilant about threats of school violence.
"I definitely see the need to investigate such claims. Absolutely," he said. "But at some point during the investigation there has to be some common sense."
i have mixed feelings on this one, I can understand the police wanting to make sure a crime wasn't going to happen, but this has the possibility of setting a very bad standerd for free speech. Fear can now trump constitutional rights. What do you guys think more to the story or just over-reaction??
I think they did the right thing initially. But then, if they went to the house, and there was nothing that indicated he actually was going to do it, then decrease the bond and let him out. BUT I still think he should have to go to court over it. They should also put him on some type of house arrest just so that they can make sure he has no access to firearms or explosives while the investigation and trial is going on.
I understand that he was just saying some outrageous **** on facebook, but they still need to be sure.
I belive I've seen Devil and others on Bullshido say more shocking stuff than what he said! :)
Ah the dangers of sarcasm and an extreme example of Poes Law.
This is why I worry about stories like this, the effect of instantly locking people up and potentially ruining their lives over speech. It can have the effect of making people afraid to speak and at that point freedom of speech would be moot. Besides if they were that worried they could of set up surveillance to be safe, it's not like they don't like to use surveillance as a tool.
Originally Posted by Diesel_tke
Edit: removed because I misunderstood the case.
Because someone reported it's reasonable to find out if he has access to weapons and, you know, ask him is he seriously plans on shooting up a kindergarten.
He was clearly joking.
A teenage gamer being persecuted for going online and saying he'd shoot a bunch of kids? Finally a cause that the people of the Internet to rally for!
All examples of Poe's law are extreme, the difference is whether or not the extremism in each case is real or fake.
Originally Posted by legomepanda
Unfortunately for this dumb kid, law enforcement doesn't give a **** about "Poe's Law". If you write threatening sounding **** on Facebook, some person who knows a person who knows a person who knows you on Facebook will see it, not know who the **** you are, and call the FBI.
I'm against this for philosophical reasons, but if it makes teenagers a little more cautious about running their mouths online, especially making light of tragedies, then maybe some good will come from it.
Frankly I'm getting goddamn tired of Soccer Mom America, where everyone's absolute safety and entitlement to a risk-free life are unspoken collective rights that trump all other individual rights.