An ill-advised, but clearly sarcastic comment made by a Texas teenager during an online gaming session could land him in prison for the next decade. 18-year-old Justin Carter is charged with making terrorist threats against a school after he announced that he would “shoot up a Kindergarten” in a Facebook thread, but his attorney Don Flanary wants the case to be thrown out entirely. Calling the case “completely bonkers,” he acknowledged Carter’s comments were stupid, but hardly criminal and protected by the First Amendment. Carter faces up to 10 years in prison, but was offered a plea bargain that would reduce his sentence to eight years.
After being provoked by a fellow online gamer, Carter wrote “I’m f*cked in the head alright, I think I’m a SHOOT UP A KINDERGARTEN… AND WATCH THE BLOOD OF THE INNOCENT RAIN DOWN… AND EAT THE BEATING HEART OF ONE OF THEM.” Flanary said the comments were completely inappropriate, but that Carter had no history of violence or criminal record, no means of carrying out the threat and no desire to do so.
But after his comments were reported to police, Carter was arrested and told that he would be let go if he confessed to making the Facebook statements. When he did that, authorities increased his bail to $500,000 and left him in jail for months. He was eventually released through the help of an anonymous sympathizer, but Flanary said that the teenager’s rights were violated.
“The Texas Constitution and virtually all case law from it says that it’s illegal to keep someone under conditions of bond they can’t afford,” said Flanary. “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.”
Flanary also said that Carter has faced emotional trauma since leaving jail because he was beaten and sexually assaulted while behind bars.
(Photo: Comal County Police Department)