Massachusetts high-school student and aspiring rap artist Cameron D’Ambrosio, 18, who has been in jail for a month (without bail) because of self-written rap lyrics he posted to his Facebook account, was cleared for release yesterday when a grand jury refused to indict him.
The lyrics in question, though potentially distasteful, were hardly threatening: “Fuck a boston bombinb [sic] / Wait til u see the shit I do, I’ma be famous for rapping / and beat every murder charge that comes across me.” As many have pointed out and police have admitted, the lyrics neither highlight a specific plan nor threaten a specific group. A search of D’Ambrosio’s person and home, to which he willingly complied, revealed no further evidence.
“There will be a bail hearing this afternoon,” said Carrie Kimball Monahan, spokesman for the Essex County DA, “after which point he will probably be released, is my educated guess.”
Police were originally alerted by school officials, who had been tipped off by students. They then posted a weirdly alarmist page to their website, titled “Mutheun High School Student Arrested!!!” Prosecutors were seeking to charge D’Ambrosio with making “terroristic threats,” an offense punishable by up to 20 years in state prison.
Civil liberties groups have spoken out, calling this an alarming case of over-prosecution against a teenager who, they claim, was just expressing himself. “This is a travesty of free speech,” said Evan Greer, a campaign manager at Fight for the Future, which recently started an online petition calling for D’Ambrosio’s release. “We all know, unfortunately, after tragedies like what happened here in Boston, civil liberties can suffer and it’s really important that we push back on that and make sure that these tragedies are never used to justify attacks on civil liberties and free speech,” he continued.
Many also claim that police and prosecutors have mishandled the case. In a widely circulated misquote from Mutheun Police Chief Joseph Solomon, D’Ambrosio’s line was “Wait til u see the shit I do. I’m going to be famous.” The chief had left out the fairly important “I’ma be famous for rapping,” which alters the line quite a bit. Meanwhile, many are also furious that state prosecution has kept the student in prison for a month without bail, as they attempted to compile a case against him — which, four weeks later, included an allegation that he bit another student at age 11, and an old case during which the police had been called due to a fight between him and his sister.
D’Ambrosio’s sister was present in his court room, ready to testify that her brother was not, in fact, a terrorist. Just an aspiring rapper ... who, by now, has quite a bit of street cred.