Virginia Judge Orders the Release of a Man Imprisoned for His Scary Political Opinions


Today a Virginia judge ordered the release of Brandon J. Raub, the 26-year-old former Marine who was detained for psychiatric evaluation last week based on his conspiracy-minded, anti-government Facebook posts. Following a one-hour hearing, Prince George County Circuit Judge W. Allan Sharrett declared that the petition seeking to commit Raub for a month "is so devoid of any factual allegations that it could not be reasonably expected to give rise to a case or controversy." As Nick Gillespie noted yesterday, local police and federal agents came and took Raub away last Thursday in response to complaints about his Facebook posts, which mix laments about lost liberty and condemnations of tyranny with dark music lyrics, quotations from famous people (e.g., Napoleon: "Death is nothing, but to live defeated and inglorious is to die daily"), predictions of impending revolution (e.g., "the revolution is upon us," "a new beginning is coming"), and loony but sadly familiar allegations about the government's involvement in 9/11, along with less familiar (to me, anyway) claims about clandestine chemical drops and "a secret Castle in Colorado where they have been raping and sacrificing children for many years." The scariest statement cited so far: "Sharpen up my axe; I'm here to sever heads." Not rainbows and unicorns by any means, but not exactly a true threat either.

The Rutherford Institute, a civil liberties group based in Charlottesville, Virginia, helped Raub win his freedom. Its executive director, John Whitehead, comments:

This is a great victory for the First Amendment and the rule of law. Brandon Raub was arrested with no warning, targeted for doing nothing more than speaking out against the government, detained against his will, and isolated from his family, friends and attorneys. These are the kinds of things that take place in totalitarian societies. Today, at least, Judge Allan Sharrett proved that justice can still prevail in America.

In the April 2011 issue of Reason, I warned that loosening the rules for civil commitment, as various pundits urged in the wake of Jared Lee Loughner's shooting rampage in Tucson, would sweep up many nonviolent cranks who pose no threat to public safety. The Raub case gives you a sense of how that might happen, except that he might still be imprisoned for his disturbing opinions if the reforms recommended by the stop-them-before-they-kill crowd had been implemented. I suspect the guy who came to fix my sprinkler system yesterday, who after I paid the bill shared some startling information about extraterrestrials, ancient civilizations, and Nazi weapons, would be a target as well.

Now may be an appropriate time to revisit the ongoing Cato Unbound debate about coercive psychiatry, which I mentioned two weeks ago. Since then a bunch of new posts have been added, including comments by Amanda Pustilnik, Allen Frances, Jeffrey Schaler, D.J. Jaffe, Ronald Pies, and yours truly. Jaffe's contribution may be of particular interest, since he argues that making commitment easier is a libertarian reform.

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  1. Absent P.M. Links:

    A woman at a St. Paul bus stop told police Wednesday, “I’ve seen a lot on University Avenue, but never anything like this.”

    The 30-year-old woman, who was sitting at the corner of University and Marion Street, called 911 after seeing a man pull up in a car in front of her. Minutes later, officers near University Avenue were told by a dispatcher to look out for “a white male in a red pickup performing oral sex” on a sex toy.

    After pulling over Brian Wutschke, 45, of Farmington, police searched the interior of his truck and found a sex toy under a flannel shirt. They also noted several pairs of women’s panties strewn around the interior, including hanging from the rear-view mirror and the gear shift.

    When they performed a pat-down search of the man and reached “the waistline area,” officers could feel something vibrating. The man then informed them he also had a sex toy inserted inside him.

    “That one’s kind of unique. They’ll be talking about this one for a while,” said police watch commander Eric Anderson.

    The officers drove Wutschke to the jail, hearing the sex toy still vibrating on the plastic seats of their squad car. Sheriff officials at the jail removed it as they were booking him, but as of late Wednesday nobody was comfortable turning it off.

    “They’ll just let the batteries run out,” Anderson said.…..ost_viewed

    1. 1) What’s the actual charge? Distracted driving?

      2) At least Mussolini make the links run on time.

      1. I was wondering about #1, too. Booking him for what?

      2. The St. Paul city attorney’s office reviewed the case and authorized police on Thursday to issue Wutschke a citation for indecent conduct, a misdemeanor, said Laura Pietan, deputy city attorney for the criminal division.

        Everything’s a crime nowadays.

    2. You forget to include the hilarious title: “St. Paul Toy Story: Indecent driver creates a buzz”

      1. I thought it might make it too long to post. And the reason I posted it was because of the last line:

        “They’ll just let the batteries run out,” Anderson said.

    3. Sheriff officials at the jail removed it as they were booking him, but as of late Wednesday nobody was comfortable turning it off.

      One may ask: Where exactly is the off switch?

      1. That’s such absolute bullshit. The coppers act like they hated having to deal with this guy, but they loved it. They jumped at the chance to pat him down and arrest him and only later had to be told what they could charge him with. They love getting into people’s business. It gives them stories to tell and, as human nature goes, it gives them a chance to feel superior. Not a second thought is given to whether it makes any sense to bother with something like this.

        1. I would be OK with classifying driving with a vibrator up your butt as “distracted driving.” Don’t Dildo and Drive.

          1. prude

    4. “You can’t give a blowjob to a dildo in St . Paul”

      That sounds like the title of a Tom Waits song.

    5. A DEP Agent at Honeymoon Island State Park (Basically State Park Police) told a similar story to my BF: He was walking down one of the backwoods trails and he happened across a naked chick fucking herself on a dildo strapped to a tree. He didn’t arrest her–just told her to leave the park; he was just kinda stunned…But that park is a little strange. Lots of naked guys walking around the North tip looking for sex with dudes on passing boats…

  2. Chesterfield, Hopewell, Salem, and now Prince George… How many Virginia localities can one legal hassle include?

    1. Excellent example of “multi-agency cooperative efforts”

  3. I fucking swear to God, we’re mere decades away from becoming a huge replica of Limetree Island. Let’s start throwing people in jail for sedition, since we’re obviously in such a Stalinist mood right now.

    Fuck the federal titan.

  4. How many people here would care about this case if Raub was a kooky pro-gummit progressive instead of a kooky anarcho-troofer? Seriously, how many?

      1. i have to agree. i think people here are GENERALLY (with obvious exceptions i won’t go into) good about supporting the concepts of freedom, etc. whether or not it is a complete scum who is benefiting (e.g. phelps) or somebody who is on the side of angels.

        it’s the whole “i disagree with what you say, but i will defend to the death your right to say it” thang

      2. What’s this “us” shit?

    1. I’d care, and I’d be just as outraged about this bullshit.

      The sort of hypocritical sacks of shit whose stand on this would falter because of the victim’s political leanings can go fuck themselves thoroughly with rusty barbed clubs.

    2. How many people here would care about this case if Raub was a kooky pro-gummit progressive instead of a kooky anarcho-troofer? Seriously, how many?

      Get get his own show on MSNBC.

    3. He’s a troofer, which ain’t exactly cannon ’round these parts. I think that at least partially answers your question.

    4. You mean like all those occupados who were never committed?

      Even if some of them somehow inexplicably wound up on the wrong side of the double standard for mere speech, I have no doubt we would object.

    5. Most of us would be outraged, and also hopeful that a statist had been converted to libertarianism (i.e. “government – creating libertarians every day”)

    6. A pro-government progressive probably wouldn’t be caught up in these sorts of things unless he was either truly dangerous, or we were much further gone and the progressives were doing internal purges. So, in theory we’d still defend him, but we’ll never know.

  5. Not rainbows and unicorns by any means, but not exactly a true threat either.

    However, if it makes *anyone* “uncomfortable” ….

  6. Jesus fucking CHRIST what is wrong with the skwerlz tonight? I’ve had to log in about 50 times to make two comments. OK, maybe not 50 times – Reason’s not worth that kind of effort.

    Anyway, FUCK you squirrels!

    1. How’d you get in after only 50? What’s your secret?

  7. They let him out? The dude’s clearly a threat, just look at the guy. I haven’t seen a face that demented on a Marine since Private Pile.

  8. I share the goal of no coercion in psychiatry, and have authored journal articles and textbook chapters on reducing coercion in treatment. However, the head-in-the-sand idea that there is no such thing as schizophrenia is very disappointing to me, and is even less supportable than holocaust denial. I am an emergency room physician who has literally treated tens of thousands of patients with schizophrenia in my career, and these unfortunate individuals have as verifiable a medical illness as asthma or diabetes.

    The brain is an organ just like others in the body, and can suffer disease. For some reason, there are those who believe that there can be no true mental illness. Can there be dementias such as Alzheimer disease then? How about seizure disorders? Stroke? Which brain illnesses are the cutoff for what is real?

    I will not disagree with you about the DSM, which is a joke. True, severe mental illnesses — such as schizophrenia, acute mania and profound depression — should be in general medical textbooks only. They should not be alongside the personally-determined “diagnoses for psychotherapists” that are also found in the DSM. Think if a Cardiology textbook had “heart attack” listed next to “heartbreak of losing your girlfriend” at the same level of diagnosis, and you get an idea how ridiculous putting true mental illness alongside individual neurosis can be.

    1. Which brain illnesses are the cutoff for what is real?

      The ones with a pathology.

      1. Some day science will find physical markers of mental illnes. Until then, you can hang out with my wife’s patient and have her explain to you that she is caring for the 3 cats that live in her belly and that she does not want them surgically removed.

        1. Some day science will find physical markers of mental illnes.

          And then it will be a physical illness, not mental illness.

          1. And at that moment it will become real and not imaginary. Nice.

            1. Really sucks for the millions of sufferers who chose to live and die in the dark ages prior to tests. What idiots.

            2. And his point still remains valid.

              1. There are already plenty of identifiable markers of schizophrenia. Just because Scientologists believe mental illness is not real doesn’t mean the rest of us should.

                You can have your own opinions about psychotherapy, personality problems, even anxiety if you want. But please don’t do a disservice to the 4-5 million people in the USA who are disabled for life by the terrible disease that is schizophrenia.

      2. Well, that is going to make it tough.

        There is not a lot of dissectable pathology for Alzheimer Disease, although neurofibrillary tangles are found. Seizures can sometimes have discrete lesions associated with the disease, but it is more commonly a disorder at the cellular level with ion channels, and those are pretty hard to dissect. Schizophrenia is often related to ventricular enlargement and decreased cerebral (cortical and hippocampal) volume — would that be enough easily visualized pathology to count for you?

        How about the PET scans of brains with schizophrenia showing discrete abnormalities? Will that work? Perhaps the ones that show that auditory regions of the brain that are stimulated in people with auditory hallucinations in a completely quiet room — evidence that they really are “hearing voices”?

        Better yet, come work a shift any day with me in the ER, and after meeting some of our unfortunate individuals, I will let you decide what is illness and what is a fanciful construct of oppressors.

    2. i have to agree 100%. i have dealt with numerous frequent flyers who are schizophrenic

      these people are either the best method actors since de niro, or schizophrenia IS real

      the DSM is of course to a large extent a joke, just like the MMPI (which i have had to take a half dozen times and can CLEARLY be “beaten”), but schizophrenia does describe a condition that is real

      iow, people we call schizophrenics, or to be PC people who suffer from schizophrenia (iow not defining a person by their condition) have a brain that works differently than ‘normal people’

      they have a common way of doing so that can be lumped in with other people we call schizophrenics and that differentiate them from non-schizophrenics.

      most PWS (people with schizophrenia) are non-violent of course, but i come into contact with them through various sorts of EDP calls or request for services by the EDP themself.

      however, i’ve also arrested them for assaults and arsons

      and interrogating a schizophrenic is really a trip into a very bizarre world. i wish i could play the cassette tape i have of one such interview, because it just so clearly is the voice of a person who suffers from a condition that just places them in a very unique space as to how they view the world.

      schizophrenia IS real.

      1. Dunster – I made a similar comment a week or two ago… lemme see if I can find it… erp, can’t. It was the post about the guy saying the DSM “has no definition” of “mental disorders”, ergo… they’re not really real things like cancer or whatever.

        I mentioned my little bro, who is grade A+ schizo, has been since his early 20s (about a decade). While I don’t endorse arbitrary involuntary commitment…. people in their 20s are the most prone to it, and should at least be evaluated if they start clearly demonstrating the kind of disordered thought, visions of persecution and dislocation from reality that is its primary symptom.

        1. yea, the practical difference between NOW and back in the day is this

          back in the day, for better or worse people could be forced into institutions merely for BEING schizophrenic

          now, at least from my angle on the street, we can only take them in, involuntarily if we have reasonable belief that they present an IMMINENT danger to self or others, which is a pretty high burden.

          one guy, i have been to the residence over half dozen times *due to calls by family members* but only had enough to invol him twice. they are frustrated as hell because the more out of control he gets (after long periods of not taking his meds – which DO work pretty well at controlling his symptoms but he hates taking them), the more certain he is that it’s not HIM. but it’s the people putting bugs in the electrical system of the house (he took apart a bunch of wall plugs and is lucky he didn’t electrocute himself at one point, looking for bugging devices)

          many EDP’s can be convinced to at least take a voluntary trip to the hospital to speak with an EDP, but wiht a schizophrenic, you simply can’t use rational persuasion when they are full blown.

          1. the last time i was able to invol him, the outdoor temperature was cold as hell and it was raining. he was outside, no shirt and shorts for 3 hrs, with an axe, hacking at trees. his inability to recognize he was hypothermic and going to get seriously ill (he was practically bright blue from the cold and his hands were like claws he was so cold) if he kept it up, what what gave me the solid cause, but his taking the axe and swinging it around at trees and also imaginary foes who weren’t there, in of itself probably would not have been enough. he wouldn’t have been harming anybody , except a tree. and he lived there. it was his trees as much as anybody.

            but you can imagine the family was scared out of their mind

            again, i recognize most schizophrenics are not violent and deserve respect not incarceration

  9. “is so devoid of any factual allegations that it could not be reasonably expected to give rise to a case or controversy.”

    This is good news. AFter looking at his facebook page and listening to his interview on youtube, dude sounded perfectly sane (within the legal confines of the definition) aside from a whole set of loony ideas about Chemtrails and cordite being used in the World Trade Centers.

    So it comes back to my original question… how did the guy get arrested/detained in the first place? Who made the decision to pull that trigger and why?

  10. claiming that schizophrenia doesn’t exist because there is no test is like saying colon cancer didn’t exist before the invention of colonoscopy

    D.J. Jaffe should be committed to a locked facility for morons.

    1. If your statement is based on the quoted text alone, how is he an idiot?

      1. How did they know what to look for with the first colonoscope?

    2. The metaphor isn’t great, but you understand what he’s saying and you know it doesn’t make him a moron.

      Try this:
      claiming that schizophrenia doesn’t exist because there is no test is like saying Alzheimer’s didn’t exist before the post-mortem test for it was discovered

      Moronic? I’d say pretty damn true.

      1. Yeah, but true or not, we’re talking about treating it as a basis for locking people up. I have a pretty damn high standard for involuntarily committing people.

        Just because some group of secular priests can declare that someone is demonically possessed doesn’t really justify throwing the guy in a holding pen against his will.

        1. And forcibly drugging the guy with chemicals whose apparent side effects include ventricular enlargement and decreased cerebral (cortical and hippocampal) volume among other unpleasantries.

          1. This case is fucked up from all I can see about it.

            But schizophrenia is not cause for involuntary commitment unless the person is judged to be an immediate threat to himself or others, and that is a high bar to clear. And in most states (maybe all, I don’t know) you have to then prove the person is a continuing threat to himself or others before a judge in order to get them held longer than a few days.

            1. Shorter: diagnosing someone with schizophrenia does not by any stretch get them committed for even a minute.

              1. This is true. I have an aunt who has displayed schizophrenic traits before, to the point of wandering the streets barefoot with one kid, while the other kid is at home by himself (she’s a lot better now, and the kids are fine, btw). However, my family had no legal basis to have her involuntarily committed, or drugged or anything. I’m sure we would have anyway, but it wasn’t even presented as an option. Make of that what you will.

        2. That’s a different discussion, and I completely agree that the bar for locking people up needs to be a bitch to clear.

          (I was arguing with SIV who seems to believe mental illness doesn’t exist until there is a definitive physical test proving it (and he’s most likely gone for the night or in any case hasn’t responded to Anacreon’s comments on possible tests that might satisfy him.))

          That said, in every state I’ve heard about it is a bitch to lock someone up involuntarily for any extended period, and pretty damn tough even for

      2. Jaffe’s premise is that forcibly confining and drugging an individual against his will increases his liberty, because well SCIENCE!.

        He assumes all those labeled schizophrenic are violence prone.

        His entire argument is based on a cascade of material fallacies.

        1. I was only responding to the quote. I have not read Jaffe’s article yet. He may indeed be a moron, but I don’t think the quote proves it one way or another.

          1. The colonoscopy analogy makes him a moron, along with the rest of his entire argument. The ancient Greeks identified cancer with a biopsy.

            1. The colonoscopy quote proves he used a bad metaphor.

              Neither the ancient Greeks nor anybody else for a couple millennia had any idea what caused communicable diseases – did that make the plague imaginary until bacterial infections were understood and seen under a microscope?

              In any case, I am curious: do you believe that schizophrenia is not real? That some people do not suffer from hallucinations and other horrible distortions of reality not caused by drug use?

              If you don’t believe some people suffer from that condition, you have your head willfully in the sand and are choosing to ignore some terrible suffering, and I don’t think this conversation has anywhere else to go. If you do acknowledge that some people suffer from that condition, what is your argument? That the study and treatment of the condition should be considered inferior science until a physical cause can be identified, at which point (if it is achieved) those researchers become legitimate? And until then, researchers and practicioners should be and do… what?

              Or is it that you don’t believe people should ever be able to be held involuntarily in a psychiatric facility? Please read Dunphy’s descriptions of times he could and could not take someone in involuntarily to understand that this is already very difficult.

              What do you think needs to change?

  11. Not rainbows and unicorns by any means

    He COULD have been intending to sever Unicorn heads – better safe than sorry! Load ’em up on Zyprexa!

  12. So we’re going to pretend that extraterrestrials aren’t real and haven’t been watching us since they seeded our ancient civilizations using Nazi weapons?

    1. What happened to extraterrestrials and Nazis flying out of the Antarctic hole to the center of the earth?

  13. Ok, here is the thing I don’t get about this whole scenario. This isn’t a low budget thriller, it’s the real world, are these idiots really that genre ignorant?

    I mean they basically just confirmed EVERY SINGLE ONE OF HIS LOONIE BELIEFS.

    I mean seriously, if our idiotic government agents are going to be acting like StormTroopers they could at least be genre savy ones.

    1. I thought that was genre-typical for storm troopers: act mindlessly and en masse.

  14. “claims about clandestine chemical drops”

    Chemtrails maybe?

    “and “a secret Castle in Colorado where they have been raping and sacrificing children for many years.”

    Sounds like Van Jones yelling about baked babies wrapped in gold foil for appetizers, if I remember that stupid bullhorn bleating correctly.

    These crazy conspiracy thingies are getting hard to keep up with.

  15. The Soviet Union also put government critics in mental hospitals.

  16. Dear Mr. Sullum,

    If you’d dug a little deeper you’d have noted that the “sharpen my axe..” comment are rap song lyric quotes (that Mr. Raub raised this in his defense), and that Mr. Raub was playing a role playing game about the illuminati with his siblings on FB that encompass some of his other postings. I find it rather surprising, given how utterly common it is to post song lyrics as statuses on FB and say other ‘inside joke’ type things on our *private* FB pages, that one would *first* inquire as to context and not assume one knows what is meant by a post.

    And no, there was nothing criminally actionable in anything he said; there were indeed no “true threats”. The question is then whether civil commitment laws for prospective dangerousness (to others, and by reason of a mental illness – the federal consitutional minimum required)are inherently incompatible with civil commitment laws vis a vis dangerousness, or whether civil commitment is only available where a criminal “true threat” standard can be met. I’m in favor of the latter interpretation – we deal with criminal activity by reason of mental illness differently than we treat sane criminal activity. Anything else would be a new, lower first amendment standard (oddly and illogically) applicable to those who – as a premise – have less culpabiilty.

  17. I’d add to my last comment also: assume all of Mr. Raub’s most eccentric postings were hyperbole, inside jokes, song lyrics. Now ask yourself, how permanently, irreversibly, and deeply has Mr. Raub been defamed? On top of having (without question, we have a ruling after all) been deprived of his First, Fourth, Fifth, and 14th amendment rights as well as arguably some substantive due process rights as well. Try not to contribute to the damage, k?

  18. also, also, “word to your moms, i came to drop bombs”. know your rap lyrics or be an oppressor, your choice!

  19. “As long as God allows me to be clever it will never end, sharpen my axe and I’m back, I’m here to sever heads.” -Swollen Members, Bring Me Down.

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