Justin Carter, Teen Jailed for Months on Feckless Facebook “Threat,” Still Facing Trial

Dallas Observer has a detailed and infuriating update
on a case I’ve blogged about for Reason back in
of last year, of a teen charged and held for months
basically for mouthing off on Facebook.

Their details

Carter’s comments were part of a duel between dorks, and may
have had something to do with a game with strong dork appeal
called League of Legends. But the
actual details and context of the online exchange are, in the eyes
of Texas authorities, unimportant. Prosecutors say they don’t have
the entire thread — instead, they have three comments on a
cell-phone screenshot. 

Prosecutors have failed to produce the entire thread containing
Carter’s alleged threat, according to his attorney, Don

One of the comments appears to be a response to an earlier
comment in which someone called Carter crazy. Carter’s retort was:
“I’m fucked in the head alright, I think I’ma SHOOT UP A


He was mouthing off like a jokey jackass on Facebook with pals
and/or unfriendly cronies. Someone in Canada reading it got scared
and called the cops. Who arrested Carter. And held him in jail for
months on $500,000 bail, where he was sexually assaulted and

And now? He’s still facing charges, though out on
bail thanks to a generous anonymous donor. And the charges, says
Carter’s lawyer Don Flanary, are b.s.

Flanary believes it’s paramount that if someone is criminally
charged on the basis of his words, a jury needs to
see all the words. In this case, that includes
whatever comment precipitated Carter’s hyperbolic rant.

“If you understand the English language, when someone says, ‘I’m
fucked in the head alrightcomma,’ that is a preparatory
phrase … in response to a previous phrase. Presumably, someone
[said] to him, ‘You are fucked in the head,’ or words similar to

But Flanary says that Bates presented a truncated version of the
comments to grand jurors. They did not see “I’m fucked in the head
alright, I think I’ma” before “shoot up a kindergarten.” If this
sounds like the nitpicking of a defense attorney, that’s precisely
the point.

“When you’re dealing with speech,” Flanary says, “… it is
absolutely, 100 percent important that the words that you are
charging people with are actually the words that they said and not
some misrepresentation. And that’s what … this prosecutor did, is
misrepresent to the grand jury what he said.”

Still, there’s an even bigger problem, according to Flanary: His
client’s comments are not a “terroristic threat” as defined by the
Texas Penal Code.

According to the indictment, Carter’s statement met two of the
necessities required by state law: His words were uttered “with the
intent to place the public or a substantial group of the public in
fear of serious bodily injury,” or uttered “with the intent to
cause impairment or interruption of public communications, public
transportation, public water, gas, or power supply or other public

But Flanary likens the Facebook thread at issue to a fight on
the playground. Just a couple of people spouting off. Citing two
key federal court rulings, Flanary says, “There must be a clear and
present danger, and there must be a true threat. And if you don’t
have a true threat, then the First Amendment protects your speech.
Plain and simple.”….

In a CNN interview, Carter’s father,
Jack, said that his son was under suicide watch.

“He’s very depressed,” Jack Carter said. “He’s very scared and he’s
very concerned that he’s not going to get out. He’s pretty much
lost all hope.”

Carter’s mother, Jennifer, told the World Socialist website in
June 2013 that when she first found out her son had been arrested,
“I thought as soon as the police talk to him, they will see it was
a joke and let him go. If anything, it would be a misdemeanor. I
thought if they talked to him, they would realize it was just his
sarcastic sense of humor.”

Nope, the system refuses to budge. Well, they were willing to
budge a little, if Carter was as well:

Comal County prosecutors, who wanted Carter off the streets for
eight years, offered 10 years’ probation, with Carter pleading
guilty to the felony charge. Flanary says he was insulted.

“The fact is, the case should be dismissed,” he says. “He didn’t
do anything wrong. … That’s what dictatorships all around the
world used to do. They’d say, ‘If you confess to your crimes
against the state, we will let you go.’ I mean, fuck you. I didn’t
do anything wrong. … ‘Just admit you’re a witch or we’ll burn
you. Why won’t you just admit you’re a witch?'”

Flanary is adamant that the case has been handled in just that

“The way that the criminal justice system is supposed to work
and was envisioned by our founding fathers is: First you prove the
crime, then you get the punishment,” he says. “That’s clearly how
it’s supposed to work. But now, in Justin’s case, [it’s] ‘Let’s do
the punishment first and then we’ll see if we can prove the crime
later.’ The damage has been done. And I suspect they know the
damage has been done. I suspect that maybe one of the reasons
they’re holding on so hard is because they fear a lawsuit.”

from Hit & Run http://ift.tt/1btCiW0

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