Justin Carter, the 19-year-old League of Legends player jailed for an alleged “Terroristic Threat” made on his part during a Facebook argument about the game, has been freed on bail. Responding to another player who, according to his father Jack Carter “…said something to the effect of 'Oh you're insane. You're crazy. You're messed up in the head”, Justin made a sarcastic comment that referenced school shootings. Court documents say that his actual statement was:
"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."
These words were followed by the acronyms “LOL” and “JK”, indicating that he wasn’t serious – yet nonetheless he was arrested and has been in jail since 27 March 2013. His family were required put up 10% of his $500 000 bail in order to secure his release into their custody. Mr and Mrs Carter were selling “Free Justin Carter” T-shirts and asking for donations on their official website in order to raise the funds. Happily, gamefront.com now reports that Justin was released yesterday after “an anonymous good Samaritan” donated the required amount of $50, 000 to his family enabling them to pay the bond.
This case highlights many issues surrounding social media, freedom of speech and the American war on terror.
Donald Flanary, one of Justin’s defence attorneys, stated in an interview with Gamefront.com that “law enforcement in this case…didn’t use their discretion”:
“If the government is going to say ‘we’re threatened by this speech,’ there has to be a ‘clear and present danger,’” Flanary said, citing the 1969 U.S. Supreme Court case Brandenburg vs. Ohio. “You can advocate for a new government, you can even advocate for violent rebellion. But what you can’t do is talk about specific things. ‘On such and such day, I’m going to call on everyone to kill so-and-so.’ You can talk about your disdain for the government, you can talk about your disdain for other individuals, you can be argumentative, and the reality is our law enforcement has gotten that picture since 1969…they know they can’t lock people up for their speech.”
Donald Flanary and Chad Van Brunt make up Justin’s legal team and are representing him pro bono.
Jack Carter has stated to cnn.com that “…as a parent, he understands why authorities are so vigilant about threats of school violence.” Mr Carter stated:
"I definitely see the need to investigate such claims. Absolutely. But at some point during the investigation there has to be some common sense."
Justin’s mother, Jennifer Carter, has created an online petition at change.org appealing to Jennifer Tharp, the District Attorney of Comal County; Greg Abbot, Texas State Attorney General and American President Barack Obama revise the Terrorist Threat laws that are currently in place. The introduction to the petition reads:
"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."
Mrs Carter is looking for a total of 150 000 signatures; of which she has 126 196 at the time of writing. If you would like to add your name to the cause, you can sign the petition here.
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