Justin Carter — the San Antonio, Texas teenager who was jailed for months for making an idiotic but entirely sarcastic violent threat on Facebook — is still facing up to 8 years in prison.
The 18-year-old is charged with making terrorist threats against a school. Prosecutors are determined to get either a guilty verdict or force Carter to admit his guilt in exchange for a reduced sentence.
But Carter’s lawyer, Don Flanary, says the case is ridiculous, and should be thrown out. (RELATED: Texas teen makes violent joke during video game, is jailed for months)
“This whole thing is totally and completely bonkers,” said Flanary in an interview with The Houston Press.
Carter made his comments on a Facebook thread in February of last year. A fellow online gamer was provoking him, and caused Carter to say things he would come to regret. Carter said, “I’m fucked in the head alright, 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 threat was not meant to be taken seriously. Carter had no history of violence, no means of carrying out the threat and no actual desire to do so.
The comments may have been stupid, but they weren’t criminal, said Flanary.
“There must be a clear and present danger, and there must be a true threat,” he said. “And if you don’t have a true threat, then the First Amendment protects your speech. Plain and simple.”
Nevertheless, Carter’s comments were reported to the police, who determined that a nearby elementary school was in danger and arrested him at his place of work. The police couldn’t be sure that they had the right Justin Carter, however, so they asked him to admit that he had written the comments. If he confessed, they said they would let him go.
So he confessed.
In response, the authorities increased his bail amount to a whopping $500,000. He spent months in jail before an anonymous sympathizer donated the money so that Carter could make bail. (RELATED: Second teen spends months in jail for sarcastic video game threat)
Flanary said the high bail amount was itself a violation of his client’s rights.
“The Texas Constitution and virtually all case law from it says that it’s illegal to keep someone under conditions of bond they can’t afford,” he said.
If convicted of the charges against him, Carter could spend years behind bars and pay thousands of dollars.
Flanary described the case as a witch hunt against an entirely innocent person.
“The fact is, the case should be dismissed,” he said. “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?’”
The Washington Post’s Radley Balko said of the case:
“Carter spent months in jail. While he was there, his attorney says he was beaten and sexually assaulted. And he’s still looking at up to 10 years in prison. The fact that the prosecutors at one point offered him a plea bargain with an eight-year sentence suggests they plan to put him away for as long as the law will allow.”