Darren Weeks
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Friday, March 22nd, 2019

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Terrorized for Being a Kid: When Prosecutorial Zeal Becomes Domestic Terrorism

justin-carter1Darren Weeks
Coalition to Govern America
January 5, 2019

I learned this evening that charges had finally been dropped in the case of a Texas teenager who had allegedly made an online threat against a fellow video game player.

Justin Carter of Austin, Texas, was 18-years-old in February 2013, when he got into an argument with a fellow gamer on Facebook. Carter was called crazy, and he foolishly responded with a sarcastic comment about shooting up a kindergarten and eating the "still beating" hearts of the children. The next line from Carter was, "LOL, J/K" — the online equivalent of "laugh out loud, just kidding". He acknowledges in a GoFundMe post that it was a "tasteless joke".

But for this "tasteless joke", Justin was charged with making a terroristic threat and faced a $10,000 fine and up to ten years in prison! What normally would be a serious discussion among adults and the young man, the incident was treated as if Carter had already committed mass murder.

His mother described the dark ordeal in a post on Facebook, and on the website Change.org:

My son, Justin Carter, was arrested on February 14, 2013 (yes, Valentine’s Day) because of a sarcastic comment he posted on Facebook about a computer game which was then taken out of context by a complete stranger! ...

My son was in jail for months because we couldn't afford to pay the half million dollar bail money. It took a month before he was even questioned and he spent his 19th birthday behind bars. To this day, Justin has not had a trial. No weapons were found during a search of his apartment, and so we’re really confused and heartbroken that our family is being violated like this.

While confined in jail, Justin was assaulted a number of times. He was locked in solitary confinement for months.

Justin’s a good kid. He wouldn’t hurt anyone, let alone a child. What I understand happened is that he was in an argument on the League of Legends website, which continued on a Facebook page, and someone on Facebook called him crazy and messed up in the head.

So he responded in a sarcastic tone by saying something along the lines of 'Oh ya, I'm real messed up in the head alright, I'ma gonna shoot me up a school full of kids and eat their still beating hearts'. Now anyone that knows me or my kids knows that we write in perfect English, so the bad spelling is not a mistake, it was an attempt to convey, in writing, an uneducated accent as part of the joke.

His response may have been in bad taste, but it was written in a non-threatening way that didn’t translate well online. None of his friends or family would even question his intention as anything other than a poor choice of words. Things got out of control, but my son is not a felon and terrorist as he’s currently being charged!

The authorities’ over-reaction is ruining Justin’s life. And it’s setting a dangerous example trying to punish kids who often say strange things that I believe are protected under freedom of speech. The justice system’s abuse of Justin is wasting time and money that could otherwise be spent to help people who honestly need it!

 An anonymous donor graciously stepped forward and eventually paid the half million dollar bond. Justin was temporarily released and tried to live life as best he could. But, after going through the exhasting appeals process, five years later, Justin was still in legal jeopardy. A trial date was set, then delayed indefinitely by the prosecution, who said they wanted more time to pursue the witness who first reported the comment. The filing didn't identify the witness, but Don Flanery, Justin's pro bono attorney, said he believed the witness was the mother of the individual with whom Justin had argued online. Flanery questioned the government's claim that they needed more time to prove their case.

“What have they been doing for the past five years?” he asked of Hearrell and his fellow prosecutors. Flanary also noted how the witness the state is trying to secure would not add much to the prosecution’s case, because Carter is not denying he posted the comments in question. Rather, Carter asserts that he posted the comments sarcastically, and thus should not be considered a serious threat.

justin-carter2Then, came the surprise plea deal. The prosecution agreed to drop the charges against Justin if he agreed to a class A misdemeanor of filing a false report or alarm. In exchange, he received time served, but he won't get the past five years of his life back. For five long years, the cloud of this prosecution has been hanging over this young man's head — all because of a stupid comment he made on Facebook, which he clearly followed with a remark that he was kidding. These prosecutors terrorized this kid for five years, for no other reason than they could. They knew their case was weak, as evidenced by the plea bargain. At best, he should have been given a stern warning, a rebuke that you don't say things like that online (or anywhere else), and that should have been the end of it.

This case demonstrates, like no other, the problem with today's so-called "Justice" system, in the era that is post-USA PATRIOT Act. Instead of "law enforcement" and peace officers, police departments have been transformed into crime prevention units. Vicky Davis and I did a deep dive of predictive policing on Govern America, back on March 10, 2018. I view that episode to be one of the most important that we ever did, and highly recommend it.

The Carter case represents a collision between today's encroaching police state, and the events that help fuel it. Terrorist threats — both real and promulgated — along with the active shooter events, which have been all too frequent in the news in recent years, provide the government with the excuse to prosecute individuals who have committed no real crimes. While it is understandable that nerves have been frayed with the abundance of these events, officials often seem to take leave of any common sense.

I am reminded of the 7-year-old boy who was suspended from school for chewing his pop tart into the shape of a gun. Or, at least, some school official thought it looked like a gun — kind of, sort of. A controversy ensued as to whether it really was a gun that the child had chewed out of the pastry. What was his intent?

A sane person might suggest that it doesn't matter. When I was a kid, we used to play cops and robbers with toy — wait for it — GUNS! That's what children do. They play. It is an important part of their development.

But play can no longer be allowed, now that we have been cast into this Orwellian new world, where thought crimes are diagnosed, and pre-crimes are prosecuted. It is particularly tragic for young adults and children, who lack life experience and maturity. Because an extremely tiny fraction of a percent — blitzed out of their minds by a pharmaceutically-induced state of insanty — have went on a shooting rampage, we have to treat every child as a potential gunman. It creates an environment where children can no longer be children.

It is all too convenient for a government, which is ever-increasingly hostile to liberty, to condition young minds to the new reality that if you step out of line, the hard sledge hammer of prosecutorial tyranny lies in wait to crush you like an insect under the tire of a semi-truck, at fiber optic speed.

 

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