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 June and July 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 Flanary.

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 KINDERGARTEN [sic]."

Carter followed with "AND WATCH THE BLOOD OF THE INNOCENT RAIN DOWN."

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 beaten.

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 that."

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 service."

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 way.

"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."

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  • NebulousFocus||

    thanks for the nutpunch.

  • Almanian!||

    Great. Fuck the Comal County prosecutors, fuck the motherfucking Canadian nanny who called in the "threat", and fuck Texas.

    FUCK

  • Smilin' Joe Fission||

    Rufus, it was definitely Rufus.

  • Wasteland Wanderer||

    I'm pretty sure it was Scott. He's a dick, eh.

  • Notorious G.K.C.||

    So, if this happened in California or connecticut, there would have been no problem? The authorities would have reacted differently?

  • Almanian!||

    Fuck them, too.

  • Notorious G.K.C.||

    If you just enumerated the people *not* to fuck, it would be a shorter list.

  • Michael S. Langston||

    like a reverse Half Baked - instead of

    "You're cool. You're cool. You're cool. You're cool. Fuck you."

    it's

    "Fuck you. Fuck you. Fuck you. You're cool. Fuck you."

  • Gene||

    Pretty much how I see the world.

  • Michael S. Langston||

    Agreed.

    In that vein - I nominally despise bumper stickers, but there's one I thought I might use one day:

    If you're not angry; you're not paying attention.

  • Dweebston||

    Except that that bumper sticker had its heydey during the Bush years, and presumably Democrats have long since peeled them off the backs of their sedans and hatchbacks. I haven't seen one in ages; apparently nobody's paying attention.

  • Almanian!||

    PS It happened in Texas, not CA nor CT. Put your straw elsewhere.

  • Notorious G.K.C.||

    I doubt these prosutors represent all Texans, except under Rousseau's general will theory.

  • ||

    Good thing he didn't say "fuck Texans", then.

  • Notorious G.K.C.||

    I might be oversensitive. It's possible.

  • Notorious G.K.C.||

    Do we kmow the full context of the discussion? It sounds sarcastic to me, but yeah, maybe he's plotting to kill a bunch of kindergarteners. Let's say there's like 1% chance of that. Don't the prosecutors want to provide the full context to show how evil the kid is?

  • Michael S. Langston||

    Don't the prosecutors want to provide the full context to show how evil the kid is?

    No - their goal is always to win under any circumstances. It's about the numbers to proudly show others to further their careers.

    & of course voters help by ignoring most articles are this kind of abuse with dismissive phrases such as "he likely did something else just as bad" or "that's just one bad cop".

    So the prosecutors have incentives to continue this bad behavior (like threatening someone with hundreds of years, but "settling" on months just for the win) and no pressure to stop doing it.

    Same with bad police behavior - though their pro-incentive is lessened, they have no disincentive to abusing their powers.

    Assuming I'm reading current culture/society correctly - is it any wonder it's only getting worse?

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Nope, the system refuses to budge.

    It's not some faceless system. It's a gaggle of attorneys whose resumes require they administer not justice but the harshest possible penalty they can get away with. It's people with their own petty agendas.

  • Paul.||

    I fail to see the sarcasm in your comment.

  • Michael S. Langston||

    It's not some faceless system. It's a gaggle of attorneys whose resumes...

    No - it's not. Like other humans, for good or evil, they are playing in the game they were given.

    & this is true:

    Nope, the system refuses to budge.

    So long as you assume system are the voters. If voters cared about these abuses in high enough numbers, something could be done.

    Until then, the police and other LEOs can continue business as usual.

    & for those lucky enough to not have to deal with any abuses like there directly, they can be happy in their ignorance as they can continue believing there isn't a problem.

    I mean if an entire society, or even just a very large city, allowed themselves to be exploited at will by a single guy with a single revolver, who would you blame?

    The gun toting crazy? Or the tons of people who could actively do something about it but simply don't?

    Toss up maybe - but in our society that's the way it works - either Americans actively want change, over a longer period of time, and in high enough percentages, they get it every time.

    But who pays attention anymore?

    & really, at this point, what difference does it make?

  • Steve G||

    I love your bullet-point style and the occasional ampersand lead-in. Do you have a newsletter??

  • GILMORE||

    Brian = Sugarfree'd the link

    http://www.dallasobserver.com/.....f+Legends/

    "Subject: League of Legends"
    Nothing was found that satisfied your request

    The fact that this thing was said to have strong dork appeal has nothing to do with how I noticed this.

  • GILMORE||

    ugh

    "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 beaten"

    We are all going to be assraped in jail now, I know it. Someone @ Jezebel is finally going to find the PM links and doom will follow thereafter.

    Seriously, there is no explaining 99% of the dialogue here. its all Thought-Crime, all the time.

  • GILMORE||

    And, by the way = will someone (not Bo) please tell me when the crime of 'terroristic threat' was introduced? I assume 9/12/01. Have we not had enough stupid cases under this law yet for people to get rid of such a vague catch-all accusation??

  • Ted S.||

    Have we not had enough stupid cases under this law yet for people to get rid of such a vague catch-all accusation??

    AHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!111!!!

    Look how much the RICO statute is abused to go after non-racketeers. Do you think the fucking prosecutors are ever going to give up a law they can use to go after people?

  • montana mike||

    Holder ought to be prosecuted under the RICO statutes, he's turned the DoJ into an extortion racket.

  • Wasteland Wanderer||

    Actually, no. The term predates 9/11. Still stupid, though.

  • VicRattlehead||

    I give thee article 92 of the UCMJ, basically- you did something you were not directly ordered to or not to do therefore guilty of doing or not doing whatever it was so we shall stick the harshest possible penalty as possible to you.

    and then the 2012 NDAA

    soon it will be back to "we found a witch may we burn her?" and with no Sir Bedevere to conduct the trials

  • GILMORE||

    "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..."

    ...?

    Because when your son has been imprisoned for speech crime by the state? CALL A SOCIALIST

  • ||

    They might have contacted her

  • GILMORE||

    lastly -

    Why have Texans not surrounded the county courthouse with torches and pitchforks and shotguns and demanded the heads of at least a few lawyers?

    I mean, come on Texas. remember that whole 'don't mess with' thing?

  • Death Rock and Skull||

    They like role reversal play with Canadians every now and then.

  • juris imprudent||

    [Hedley Lamarr voice] Kinky [/Hedley Lamarr voice]

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    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 the sounds of that kid's attorney, I'd say those two cravenly women prosecutors are going to get a lawsuit.

  • GILMORE||

    lastly lastly lastly,

    I just noticed the post prior to this

    "Exene Cervenka of L.A. Punk Band X Moving to Texas Because California Has Become "A Liberal Oppressive Police State.."

    uhm

    Try Idaho?

  • Idaho Bob||

    Yep.

  • BillPrep||

    sheeeee had to leave..dunh-dunh-dunh-dunh LOS ANGELES?

  • Sevo||

    ..."Still, there's an even bigger problem, according to Flanary"...

    Yes, I think it has to do with the first amendment to the Constitution.

  • Death Rock and Skull||

    i think i'ma PUSH SANDRA FLUKE IN A OUTHOUSE AND SHIT ON HER TITS AND FACE.

  • Notorious G.K.C.||

    Ima teach the whole world to sing in perfect harmony, so there!

    Now, where's my reward for attempted goodness?

  • ||

    I'm going to buy the world a Coke and chill with it awhile.

  • Bobarian||

    You get a date in the outhouse next.

    Attempted goodness my ass!

  • Number 7||

    We'll start a fund for your bail.

  • ||

    I wonder about cases like this. How can this case not hurt the DA's chances for re-election?

  • Sevo||

    Dunno, isn't Arpaio elected in AZ? Someone likes them some 'lawnorder' thugs!

  • Notorious G.K.C.||

    They are probably covering their asses. To avoid suits like that lawyer said, and to avoid having the kid be an actual school shooter.

    They're afraid of some parent of a murdered kindergartner telling a reporter, "and then after he killed my daughter, I learned that he'd threatened to do it in advance, but the authorities did nothing to stop him! They thought he was joking!"

  • GILMORE||

    Yeah, but you'd think after they corralled the kid and given him a once-over, it'd be clear he's not a nascent school-murderer.... and they'd let it go. But no = they go full on Midnight Express on the kid... why? FYTW

  • Notorious G.K.C.||

    I doubt he's an actual danger, but they seem to think the political risk of letting him go, with a 1% chance he later kills someone, is worse than the risk of locking him in a cage when he's 99% likely to be harmless. Jow do you prove their vigilance didn't stop a rampage? It's like the tiger repelling rock; better safe than sorry.

    Though now he's out on bail, you'd think he was still as much of a danger as before. I hope they made "don't kill kimdergartners" a condition of his bail.

  • Tejicano||

    I find it difficult to imagine how sociopathic these lawyers must be to put a 19 year old boy through this meat grinder of a legal system. How can they sleep at night knowing that they have totally fucked up a young life this way?

    I am sure they pretend to themselves that there really could have been a real threat here. Or that somehow they are enforcing "broken winodows" policies on-line or some other such BS.

    These people are bigger real threats to society than any possible loonie they might catch. What if, two or three years from now, this guy actually ended up shooting up a school? Reviewing the history of his case who do you think people - the public at large - would say are at fault?

  • ||

    How can they sleep at night knowing that they have totally fucked up a young life this way?

    On a pillow made of taxpayer money and with dreams of personal career advancement by being tough on crime.

  • SomeGuy||

    The kid probably -_-

    and if my experience with the DOD has anything to show...they actually believe they are doing good in their warped minds. Had to deal with soooo many egomaniacs who thought they were gifts from god but were the dumbest shits in the world with like 30-50 on a damn ASVAB...fucking 8th grade knowledge and they are in the 30-50 percentile....that is like 60-90 IQ 8th grade grad is 90 IQ and the ASVAB is 8th grade knowledge so these chumps were like 60-70 IQ???? -_- They seriously think they are saving lives and bring justice...or at least most of them.

  • Michael S. Langston||

    Yeah, I wasn't really prepared when I took that test - and think I scored like a 121, maybe a little higher - that may have been the electronics portion...

    But that was on zero study, more than a year from any class, no reading/etc since then, and on just a few hours of drunken sleep. I actually caught myself completely asleep during one of the final timed deals....

    & 121.

    Then we lost our mission, before being reassigned, and I was put to work for the CO.

    To learn that there were quite a few people who were actively barred from re-enlistment due solely to such a very low ASBAV score (I think 90 IQ is the equal to the ASBAV score needed to re-enlist).

    So many... scary.

  • SweatingGin||

    No, the Army said I was too heavy. The police said I was too dumb.
  • Michael S. Langston||

    I was released with 90% less of one lung, along with memories of chemo treatments and the like (not lung cancer, but found there).

    & while my MOS was electronics, so not physically demanding, I understood why they "let me go".

    Though assuming you weren't that heavy and could still do the physical work necessary, I don't think they should've prevented you from joining.

    As for the police - never honestly heard of them not hiring for low IQ, but there's more than one lawsuit against a police department for them refusing to hire high IQs (though I don't think either of the 2 or 3 suits won).

    Maybe they just told you "stupid" to make themselves feel better about "beating up a smarty"?

  • SweatingGin||

    That's a quote from the Simpsons.

    I actually took the test for Navy nuke school. Don't entirely remember if the scale was right, but I got something like 196/200. That convinced me *not* to join.

  • Wasteland Wanderer||



    No, the Army said I was too heavy. The police said I was too dumb smart.

    FTFY.

  • Almanian!||

    "Credible" threats. How do they work?

  • Jordan||

    Mens Rea? Such a quaint notion.

  • SweatingGin||

  • Francisco d Anconia||

    This shit is dangerous. They are pushing the FYTW to the limit.

  • Paul.||

    That a prosecutor would actually pursue this case...

  • Jordan||

    Has Tulpa moved to Texas?

  • Archduke von Pantsfan||

    How about those Olympics

  • SweatingGin||

    OT: More Detroit News, 'cause there's a shit ton of crazy Detroit News today.

    Remember the 7 year old the police killed in Detroit? Her dad just got convicted of murder.

  • GILMORE||

    Didn't know about that.

    This was disturbing =

    Detroit police raided his east side home and Jones’ 7-year-old daughter, Aiyana Stanley-Jones, was shot to death by Detroit police officer Joseph Weekley. A crew from a reality television show accompanied police on the raid."

    Because what we need is more media fetishizing of Militant Authority.

  • SweatingGin||

    Yup, it was quite a WTF. They stopped the show at that point, IIRC. Cop was just acquitted a few weeks (months?) ago.

  • Wasteland Wanderer||

    Well, at least they didn't charge him with his daughter's murder.

  • Dweebston||

    Charles Jones was found guilty of second-degree murder and perjury by a Wayne County Circuit Court
    Prosecutors say Jones gave Owens the gun that was used to shoot Blake.
    They found him not guilty on the (weapons) charges but guilty on the murder charge.”
    Cargill was both ecstatic and reflective after learning the fate of the two men charged in her son’s death.

    “I can put a smile on my face now,” Cargill told reporters. “I got justice for my son.”

    Well, that clears everything up.

  • Anonymous Coward||

    If we take nothing else from the sad story of Justin, it should be Canada delenda est.

  • creech||

    How come Penn State has to pay millions because an ex-employee molested kids but the Texas prison gets off scot free for letting inmates in their custody do the same?

  • Michael S. Langston||

    SCOTUS - the government has no proactive responsibility to protect you.

    Meaning, if they kids away from a good mother, and give them to an abusive drug-addict father and he kills them - the state is not responsible.

    If you call the police and report being taken hostage - they can park outside your front door for days, only to finally come in and see that while they waited two daughters and a mother were raped repeatedly then killed, all in front of the husband who only barely survived his beating/attempted murder after he was forced to endure what he endured.

    Police - not responsible.

    If you call the fire department because your house is burning down and they don't show up for 24 hours - even if you can prove they weren't doing anything else - they are not responsible.

    As a side note - in a country where this idea is considered settled law, it's very strange the number of people, though still a minority, who think gun ownership is crazy.

  • Acosmist||

    Deshaney is right, though.

  • ||

    And held him in jail for months on $500,000 bail, where he was sexually assaulted and beaten.

    This is one of those fucked up things that has been bothering me a lot lately. Because we have such a cruel, fucked-up prison system, if you go to prison you stand a decent chance of being raped.

    No one deserves that, ever. And yet, sadly, a decent, non-violent person is probably one of the most likely to be targeted.

    Ugh. Some times I just want to give up. It makes me sick.

  • Michael S. Langston||

    Ugh. Some times I just want to give up. It makes me sick.

    Agreed.

    Though curious - and not that I'd necessarily be against it - but does your statement imply you'd be in favor of more spending on prisons (assuming the number/percentage of people isn't the only thing used with increased funds)?

  • ||

    Per capita, yes. Ideally lower overall by reducing prison population.

    Although I think accountability for the guards would go a long way.

  • JeremyR||

    What really gets me is how today if a man and a woman both get drunk and have sex, if the woman regrets it, it's "rape".

    That's the big rape awareness issue.

    Not men in prison being forcibly raped by other men. But women having drunk sex and regretting it.

  • Archduke von Pantsfan||

  • ||

    Funny, I'm watching Les Miserables on HBO and it seems like these people honestly think rioting will look like the barricade scenes instead of just looting and random violence.

  • Sevo||

    Yeah, 'News for the Rest of Us" as if CA isn't brimming with brain-deads already.
    It's similar to "edgy" comedy acts in SF; they make fun of Bush. Certainly a 'non-conformist' view, right there!

  • ||

    Here's some much needed levity: Death Star architect speaks out on exhaust port design

    http://i.imgur.com/MAPTEem.jpg

    He raises some excellent points. We could use a guy like him in our government. Couldn't be worse.

  • Archduke von Pantsfan||

    The image has been removed

  • ||

  • Sevo||

    OK, that does get a smile.
    You expect me to design for WHAT?!

  • Dweebston||

    cyborg space wizard

    Pure win.

  • ||

    The rebels destroyed that pic

  • Archduke von Pantsfan||

    many Bothans died to bring us these images.

  • ||

    Many Bothans died getting me this information.

  • Archduke von Pantsfan||

    pwned!

  • ||

    You used the Scwartz on the squirrels, didn't you?

  • ||

  • ||

    Meh, I wasn't impressed. Most of it is complaining about the 90 degree angle, the high precision, etc. I'm pretty sure that they would have guided missiles in the Star Wars universe.

  • ||

    Yes, but recall Red Leader managed to fire his torpedos with the target locked and it didn't even go in.

    Only someone using the Force could have made that shot. Like Han Solo said, it was one in a million and probably more than that.

    So you shouldn't blame the architect for putting a necessary engineering component that could only be compromised by a miraculous shot

  • Archduke von Pantsfan||

  • Archduke von Pantsfan||

    or China.

  • Snark Plissken||

  • Snark Plissken||

    Everyone asleep? Wimps.

  • RishJoMo||

    The Kangaroo Court system is a JOKE

    www.GoAnon.tk

  • Seamus||

    Would it be a terroristic threat if I were to say that the prosecutors, the judge who set bail at a half-mill, and the see-something-say-something asshole from Canada should all be dropped from helicopters into a volcano? Because if it is, I would never say such a thing.

  • cheap kits||

    Why have Texans not surrounded the county courthouse with torches and pitchforks and shotguns and demanded the heads of at least a few lawyers?

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