Teen Jailed For Posting Joke on Facebook

From the Wall Street Journal:

“Americans were still reeling from the elementary-school massacre in Newtown, Conn., when Justin Carter allegedly committed his crime in New Braunfels, a city in central Texas.

“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,” the 19-year-old wrote Feb. 13 on a public Facebook FB +0.16% page in response to a taunt by one of his friends. The posting came some two months after a gunman killed 20 children and six adults at the school.

Mr. Carter and his parents say the comments were made in jest. But local prosecutors are treating them as a terrorist threat, a third-degree felony that carries a punishment of two years to 10 years in prison.”

Carter has been in jail since his arrest because his bond was set to $500,000, which his family cannot afford to pay.

From a constitutional standpoint, I don’t see how this could hold up in court. First of all, he didn’t make a direct “threat” towards any particular school. Secondly, Carter apparently posted “j/k” as a comment to the post. For those of you who aren’t into the latest internet lingo, that is short for “just kidding.”

Make no mistake, this joke was in poor taste and in my opinion completely unfunny.  But making bad jokes is not and should not be a crime in this country. The First Amendment gives people to say whatever we want so long as it doesn’t affect public safety. While this “joke” may have referenced a school shooting, nobody was shot because of this post. Nobody died, nobody was hurt. The only person to have suffered on account of this post was Carter himself, and it is a travesty of justice that he remains behind bars.


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