This 19-Year-Old Could Spend 8 Years in Prison For an Online Joke
The facts of the case have already been reported by the mainstream media.
An 18-year-old made some stupid, potentially threatening comments on Facebook over an online game. He wrote, "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" and "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" in an online chat. He followed it up with "LOL" and "J/K" to indicate that he was being sarcastic. Apparently this conversation was reported to the authorities, which led to the kid's arrest in February. He has been charged with "making terrorist threats" and is facing up to 8 years in jail. The bond for his release has been set at $500,000. He has been in a county prison since February. He has been reportedly abused in prison, is suffering from depression and has been placed on suicide watch (i.e. he is in solitary confinement)
This case is a chilling legal precedent that shows how a sarcastic online comment can lead to disproportionately harsh punishment. What this kid has endured so far, before trial, is already unreasonable. Therefore, without making any further arguments, one can legitimately demand his immediate release from custody. Even if found guilty, he has already served his punishment. Let him await the trial in freedom.
Many have pointed out to the First Amendment guaranteeing freedom of speech. Of course within the context of national security, this could be a tricky question, and perhaps such commentaries do need to be investigated (better safe than sorry).
However, firstly, as a former veteran of online-shooters such as Counter-Strike, I am well acquainted with the content of online discussions in threads related to the game. There are thousands of comments of similar content posted on forums, chats and threads. None of them are credible threats. It's a children's game, albeit somewhat violent. One should pay attention to the context, which in my opinion was completely disregarded by the prosecutors.
Secondly, the authorities conducted a thorough search of the kid's apartment and computer and have not found ANY evidence, either physical or textual, of any intent to engage in any terrorist activities. They also apparently questioned Justin for a long time and he insisted this was a joke.
Thirdly, according to Justin's lawyer, his former clients accused of murder received bonds for release at $150,000. Why the bond in this case is so unreasonably high also remains a mystery.
Lastly, if such sarcastic comments are, indeed treated as threat to the national security of the U.S., then the actual perpetrators of terrorist acts can remain relaxed, because as long as the police are chasing mouthy kids on the internet, they can peacefully prepare for their terrorist acts. I mean, if I were preparing a mass shooting or a terrorist act, I would be pretty relaxed now, following these ridiculous news stories.
DISCLAIMER: for the humorless authorities who are probably scanning this article now – I am being SAR-CAS-TIC! I am joking. I am not preparing any acts of terror or mass shootings. I am harmlessly eating my sandwich in the Swiss mountains and writing this article, just because I feel very sorry for Justin and his family and for the state of the U.S. judicial system.
If you really want to stop mass shootings and massacres in the U.S., perhaps you should reform your gun laws, instead of making an exemplary embarrassment of a trial and ruining this young person's life.
Sign the petition here, if you feel that Justin Carter has been unjustly imprisoned.