Justin Carter, a 19 year old from Texas, has been locked up in pretrial detention in Texas since March of this year for an insensitive comment he made on FaceBook in an exchange with another player of the online game “League of Legends.” In an argument with a FaceBook friend about the game, Carter responded to an accusation that Carter was “messed up in the head,” by writing “I think I’ma shoot up a kindergarten. And watch the blood of the innocent rain down. And eat the beating heart of one of them.” The fact that Carter followed up his post with “jk and lol,” was not enough to prevent a Canadian woman from being so alarmed that she notified authorities. Carter was eventually charged with terroristic threats, with bail set at $500,000, an amount so high that the judge obviously wanted to assure that Carter would never be able to make bail.
This sad situation just goes to show that what would be taken as obvious sarcasm in a verbal exchange in real life can be perceived quite differently when posted on the Internet. The Canadian woman who saw the post probably did not know Carter or the context of the heated online banter among gamers, which the gaming community refers to as “raging.” Raging can be immature and juvenile, for the simple reason that it is engaged in by immature teens like Carter. He must have been aware that his post was in very poor taste in light of the recent Sandy Hook shooting, but I am quite sure he had absolutely no clue that his quip would lead to a serious criminal charge like terroristic threats.
Recent reports indicate that Carter was very distraught and on suicide watch. His father reported that his son feels there is no hope and his life has been ruined. The perceived injustice of this situation has unleashed an ever growing shitstorm on the Internet. All this attention led to an anonymous good Samaritan posting Carter’s bail yesterday. In all my years of practicing law, I have never heard of a stranger posting a half million dollars bail for a defendant.
From my Yankee lawyer perspective, I can tell you that Texas, like most former Confederate states, does not exactly have a good track record of using common sense and sound judgment in criminal prosecutions. Let’s hope that this case somehow reaches a fair resolution. As far as I am concerned, Carter was in jail for a moment of assholery, as opposed to any real threat he poses to society. Five months in jail is quite a harsh penalty to pay for the offense of assholism. I just hope he can avoid having a criminal record for anything, let alone terroristic threats.
Matt McClenahen is a criminal defense lawyer in State College, Pennsylvania. With an office right next to Penn State University, most of his clients are young people like Justin Carter. He limits his practice to criminal law. http://www.mattmlaw.com/Criminal-Defense-Overview/Assault-Defense.shtml