The family of Justin Carter, the 19-year old Texas gamer who made offensive Facebook comments that landed him in jail, is working with new urgency to get his $500,000 bail reduced because they say he’s getting beat up while behind bars.
“Without getting into the really nasty details, he’s had concussions, black eyes, moved four times from base for his own protection,” says Carter’s father, Jack. “He’s been put in solitary confinement, nude, for days on end because he’s depressed. All of this is extremely traumatic to this kid. This is a horrible experience.”
In April, a grand jury in Comal County, Texas, indicted Carter on a charge of making a terroristic threat, and a judge set bail at $500,000. The high bail has kept Carter imprisoned while his case moves through the court process.
“I have been practicing law for 10 years, I’ve represented murderers, terrorists, rapists. Anything you can think of. I have never seen a bond at $500,000,” says Carter’s attorney, Don Flanary.
The charge is a third-degree felony, which in Texas, carries up to 10 years in prison. The Comal County District Attorney’s office hasn’t responded to our calls, but police in New Braunfels, Texas, who have investigated the case, say in a time of heightened sensitivity to school shootings, their interest is in preventing violence when they can.
“The whole situation is kind of unfortunate,” said New Braunfels Police Lt. John Wells.
“Unfortunate”? Unfortunate is passing the port to the right at the Oxford Union. Unfortunate is forgetting to DVR the finale of your favorite television show. The flagrantly unconstitutional arrest, holding, and charging of an 18-year-old boy because he said something unpleasant on Facebook isn’t “unfortunate” — it is downright barbaric. And it’s barbaric whether there have been no school shootings in recent months or fifty school shootings. In free countries, law enforcement is not permitted to judge the applicability of your unalienable rights on the content of the news cycle. At the very most, police should have looked into whether Carter was serious and then, when they discovered that he was not, they should have gone home.
Carter’s father says his son’s past five months of “suffering quite a bit of abuse” behind bars don’t fit the crime. “He says he’s really sorry. He just got caught up in the moment of the game and didn’t think about the implications,” Jack Carter says.
As he is allowed to do. Nothing “fits the crime” in this instance. Why? Because it’s not a crime to make jokes on the Internet. In fact, it’s not a crime to say in the abstract that you’re going to shoot up a school. And nor should it be. Justin Carter must be freed.