The Facebook Comment That Ruined a Life

Justin Carter's violent threat on Facebook lands him in jail, and limbo.

The Facebook Comment That Ruined a Life
Josh Huskin

Approximately one hour after Justin Carter posted a sarcastic comment on a Facebook thread, his life began to ­unravel.

The first reaction occurred behind the scenes, in another country. The 18-year-old Carter had no way of knowing that, while he did grunt work at a drapery shop in San Antonio, a person in Canada saw his comments — posted 60 days after the Sandy Hook school-shooting tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut — freaked out and initiated a 24-hour chain reaction of insanity that would wind up with Carter facing 10 years in prison.

Carter's comments were part of a duel between dorks, and may have had something to do with a game with strong dork appeal called League of Legends. But the actual details and context of the online exchange are, in the eyes of Texas authorities, unimportant. Prosecutors say they don't have the entire thread — instead, they have three comments on a cell-phone screenshot.

Prosecutors have failed to produce the entire thread containing Carter’s alleged threat, according to his attorney, Don Flanary.
Prosecutors have failed to produce the entire thread containing Carter’s alleged threat, according to his attorney, Don Flanary.
Attorney Don Flanary of San Antonio says Justin Carter was coerced into confessing something that wasn’t even a crime.
Josh Huskin
Attorney Don Flanary of San Antonio says Justin Carter was coerced into confessing something that wasn’t even a crime.

One of the comments appears to be a response to an earlier comment in which someone called Carter crazy. Carter's retort was: "I'm fucked in the head alright, I think I'ma SHOOT UP A KINDERGARTEN [sic]."

Carter followed with "AND WATCH THE BLOOD OF THE INNOCENT RAIN DOWN."

When a person writing under the profile name "Hannah Love" responded with "i hope you [burn] in hell you fucking prick," Carter put the cherry on top: "AND EAT THE BEATING HEART OF ONE OF THEM." (The Austin police officer who wrote up the subsequent report noted: "all caps to emphasize his anger or rage." )

That's when someone in Canada — an individual as yet unidentified in court records — notified local authorities. Because Carter's profile listed him as living in Austin, the Canadians sent the tip to the Austin Police Department. Along with a cell-phone screenshot of part of the thread and a link to Carter's Facebook page, the tipster provided this narrative: "This man, Justin Carter, made a number of threats on Facebook to shoot up a class of kindergartners. ... He also made numerous comments telling people to go shoot themselves in the face and drink bleach. The threats to shoot the children were made approximately an hour ago."

The information was forwarded to the Austin Regional Intelligence Center, an information clearinghouse for law enforcement agencies in Travis, Hays and Williams counties.

Center personnel ran Carter's name, found either a driver's license or a state ID card and discovered that the address listed was "within 100 yards" of Wooldridge Elementary School. Based on a Travis County prosecutor's belief that there was probable cause to charge Carter with a third-degree terroristic threat — which carries a penalty of two to 10 years — a judge issued an arrest warrant. U.S. marshals traced Carter to the drapery shop in San Antonio, where he worked, and handcuffed the cherub-faced, brown-haired teen. Until that point, his only brush with the law was a temporary restraining order two years earlier.

After his booking into the Bexar County Jail, authorities discovered that he actually lived in New BraunfelsComal County. After his transfer there, his bond was increased from $250,000 to half a million dollars.

According to Carter's attorney, Don Flanary, the 18-year-old suffered brutal attacks in the Comal County Jail during the four months he was held there.

Police records allege that, upon being booked into Bexar County Jail, Carter stated, "I guess what you post on Facebook matters."

He had no idea.


When officers searched Carter's home, Flanary says, they did not find the hallmarks of a lunatic.

"They found no guns in his house," Flanary says from his San Antonio office. "They found no bomb-making materials." He follows this up with a dash of sarcasm that's not a far stretch from the rhetorical flourishes that put his client in peril: "They didn't find The Anarchist Cookbook. ... They didn't find, you know, a bunch of newspaper clippings on the wall — conspiracy theories, with yarn from one place to another. They didn't find pentagrams and candles. He wasn't listening to Judas Priest."

Flanary's explanation for this is simple: His client is not a nut. But Flanary can't say the same for the jam his client's in. "This whole thing is totally and completely bonkers."

In the absence of any other evidence mentioned in Comal County prosecutor Laura Bates' filings, it's hard to disagree. Despite repeated calls, the Houston Press was unable to speak with Bates or anyone else in the Comal County District Attorney's Office — a receptionist told us that the only person authorized to speak to the media was District Attorney Jennifer Tharp herself, and she was unavailable.

One of the most striking things about the evidence so far tendered by the state is what's missing: the entire thread — which wasn't on Carter's Facebook page — containing the damning comments.

"The state tells us Facebook didn't give it to them," Flanary says. He's unsuccessfully tried to find "Hannah Love," the only other profile included in the cell-phone screenshot; at this point, it's still unclear whether "Hannah Love" is the anonymous Canadian tipster.

Flanary believes it's paramount that if someone is criminally charged on the basis of his words, a jury needs to see all the words. In this case, that includes whatever comment precipitated Carter's hyperbolic rant.

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282 comments
nonojoeyno
nonojoeyno

the government is using stories like this to take away our freedoms... and everyone is supporting it, purchasing stock in it, and raising a family in it. pretty soon theyre gonna take up a third mortgage on bullshit.
and theyll get taxed too.

jaded.maggi
jaded.maggi

When we see news of school shootings we all say, "Why did no one step in and do something about this clearly unhinged person before they went off the deep end?".

Now though, we're seeing a person who has made threats of violence and he also has several of the markers of past school shooters: He's clearly depressed, possibly bipolar, he's been bullied, he's an outcast, he's made threats before and had a restraining order taken out on him, he has suicidal ideations and he fantasises about being a hero and being loved.

The boy doesn't need to be in jail, he needs help from a mental health professional to cope with the depression or whatever mental illness he's suffering from.

gordonhilgers
gordonhilgers

You know something?  I have been thinking about making this comment for many years, yet now I have decided now is the best time ever to have my say: 

I have long realized that I, Gordon Hilgers, indeed could have a happy life, a prosperous life, a nice wife, plenty of happy children...

...if I could only get the HP/UP chicken-head girlie-boy's auxiliary Adolph Hitler plastic Jesus manufacturing prostitution machine off my behind. 

Actually, there is enough blood and bone marrow--ripe for the taking!--right inside Parkland Hospital if those goobermenches wanna try this trick again. 

HULLABALOOYA over genes. 

I hope Dallas--HP/UP slaves for Confederate Jebus--is unhappy for many years into the future.  


Thanks a lot, Dallas white coons!  "MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!" 

charlie.ingram
charlie.ingram

This is about the stupidest thing I've heard. We have now officially gone off the deep end in overreacting to what people rant on the internet. We need a serious attitude adjustment with regard to separating words from actions. This is not screaming "Fire" in a crowded theater or actually threatening to do bodily harm. This is howling at the moon and damning all the things that frustrate you. If you have not done that at some point in your life, you are officially dead. 


This act breaches the point of having "Thought Police" and criminalizing fantasy and free speech and goes way past "1984" and "Minority Report". Let this kid out. We have done him a grave injustice and any Public Prosecutor who does anything but release him without prejudice is abusing their position and should be removed from office. Or alternatively. maybe blown up and fed to wolves... 


Let's see what reaction that gets. Awooooooooo! 


Stupid people in positions of authority are becoming way too common. Let's try a little common sense for a change.

jeffwalker007
jeffwalker007

Watch and learn: This kid has pissed off some people, and they are gunning for him.


TERRORISTIC THREAT. (a) A person commits an offense if he threatens to commit any offense involving violence to any person or property with intent to;


Define Intent: the thing that you plan to do or achieve : an aim or purpose.



There was no intent, therefore no crime. This is clearly a 1st amendment violation. Anything else is arguable. This case lacks in evidence and lack in intent. It is futile to try to prove anything else or that there was intent to hurt anyone.  So let the kid go, and let Ronald Miller from Celina go as well.

The only evidence in this case is a facebook message and nothing else.





JustSaying
JustSaying

I learned a long time ago that jokes, particularly the ones of particularly poor taste, do not translate well when typed out. Sounds like this kid is paying the ultimate price for having a fucked up sense of humor. If anything, this kid is only guilty of not understanding his audience.


jwoop66
jwoop66

POST THE NAMES OF EVERY INDIVIDUAL RESPONSIBLE FOR THE INCARCERATION OF THIS KID!


JUDGES. LAWYERS. COPS.    ALL OF THEM

BigSky1970
BigSky1970

Shades of MINORITY REPORT and "precrime".

MissMacy
MissMacy

What an absolute idiot. There's an entire generation that has no idea what it means to edit themselves or keep their stupid mouths shut.

ginger4v
ginger4v

He most def has mental issues. Does he deserve to stay in jail? No. He will be a richer idiot after this. As for that idiot in CA, I say worry about CA!

drobbs
drobbs

Reading Texas penal code 22.7, it's obvious that in order to qualify for anything, Justin's threat should have been specific, he had to intend to cause panic, fear, evacuation etc. of that specific school. The small article "a" he used in his sentence, such as in "a school" ruins all that completely. Without naming the specific target, it can't be terrorist threat. The conclusion that "a school" must be the school he lives closest to, should be laughed out in any sane court.


But even if he named _the_ specific school, which he did not, he had to make that threat known to the people related to that school, in order to cause the actions specified in the law. He did not.

nightcast347
nightcast347

Does he have a criminal record or a violent history? No he doesn't. Maybe he was feeling depressed at the time. He is a victim here and the people responsible for his hardship will pay. Karma will eat your souls. Buddha would be on his side at this time. Free Mr. Carter or else you will pay. Karma is coming for everyone involved.

nightcast347
nightcast347

I hope the system gets sued out of this one. Poor guy, this is way to harse if you ask me. That is the craziest thing I have read about in a while. I guess there is no such thing as freedom of speech. 

zellousone
zellousone

Every such case should list the contact info for all of those involved in the decision process so they begin to feel some heat politically.    

zellousone
zellousone

He is a poor nobody working at a drapery store.   If his name was Suckerberg or Bieber or Lohan he could say and do anything and never be touched.  

This is how our corrupt system of injustice now works,  where the serfs have become fodder for prosecutors and private prisons while the elites do what they want,  steal trillions and laugh all the way to the bank.  

paulpsycho78
paulpsycho78

we have 5% of the worlds population and 23.4% of the worlds prison system population..is this any surprise..go down to the courthouse and observe a day of court.  this shit happens 24/7

quadibloc1
quadibloc1

A sexual assault happened? This level of negligence on the part of Texas authorities escalates the matter into another plane entirely. They now should face charges of crimes against humanity, since sexual assault is a form of torture.

rockyboyy
rockyboyy

What is the point of making an example of one kid? I have read  a thousand comments worse than the ones he mentioned, and none of which I believe have any sincerity behind them. Why waste so much time and resources on one dumb kid? Give him a fine if you want to punish him. Scare him shitless. Deny him from internet access from anywhere he lives. I don't know, but jail time? 

This is wrong. He will go in a scared kid, and come out someone else. Over nothing. Shit like this is what disgusts me about the 'justice' system.

http://tieudunghay.com/threads/phai-lam-gi-khi-tv-lcd-bi-nhieu-mo.24421/

http://www.1nhap.vn/threads/10107-Bi-kip-ban-hang-online-hieu-qua

http://suckhoe123.com/index.php?forums/t%C6%AF-v%E1%BA%A4n-h%E1%BB%8Ei-%C4%90%C3%81p-s%E1%BB%A8c-kho%E1%BA%BA.22/


richardLB
richardLB

Without the Facebook thread, how can they possibly validate the authenticity of the photo? C'mon now.. With 10 minutes and a basic shot of a Facebook page, it would be very easy to alter a photo to put words in someone's mouth.

Welcome to TexASS, the most backwards state of the union.

zengphoo
zengphoo

Looks like Texas Cops and the Kangaroo Courts there have WAY too much spare time on their hands.


www.GoAnon.tk

Kate
Kate

What has the land become where "freedom of speech" was part of its constitution?


People who use speech are more threatening than thoses who wear arms. Good night America!

marktb
marktb

Whether you think the case is an example of prosecutorial overreach or due diligence, the portrait of an isolated youth with a backward sensibility invites comparison to the profile of recent school shooters. Whether or not he deserves to be, the inward white male teenager is our 21st century bogeyman.

egnyquist
egnyquist

Just some more reasonable, intelligent, and rational behavior from the great state of Texas.  

crowlymathew
crowlymathew

People should learn to talk and message with respect and clarity.  Even if i am the judge after reading those messages i will not look for any contextual analysis.  I will put him in jail.

dfwenigma
dfwenigma

@nonojoeyno The government is not taking away your freedoms. What the government is doing is protecting itself from whack jobs that might repeat the types of activity we're seeing today - extreme violence in public places. This young man unfortunately decided to use free speech in a manner akin to yelling fire in a crowded theater. In Brandenburg v. Ohio (1969) SCOTUS overturned a the 1917 Schenck case that allowed a man to shout "fire" in a crowded theater. Opining harm to school children without other corroborating intent creates the case which will now ebb its way through the court. The question is whether Brandenburg holds in the instant case. Were the young man's First Amendment Rights usurped by the states reasonable attempts to protect the lives of the innocent? When I was a child you could say what you wished to a child and anything else was considered simply bad manners or something to be settled between parent and child or parent and parent. I am personally aware of a case where a young man called a girl a "hure" - he had no idea what a whore was albeit his middle school age. The girls had been egging he and his friends on - they had said far worse to them - yet the young man ended up with a black mark on his otherwise pristine record. This eighteen year old faces far more serious consequences largely because someone used the law - and convinced local authorities to do the same - to get back at him. He is not innocent in this venture. He said angry, unintended things that could be perceived as "terroristic" in nature. I loath the modern term terrorism because I think the use of the term is dangerous and imprecise. Social media allow expression of free speech in a manner different then the Founders could have envisioned. The immediacy coupled with bad manners allows people to say and do things that are extremely unhealthy for our society.

Markus
Markus

@jaded.maggi  The comments you've made suggest that you are personally involved with this story. Do you know this kid personally? "He's clearly depressed, possibly bipolar, he's been bullied, he's an outcast, he's made threats before and had a restraining order taken out on him, he has suicidal ideations and he fantasises about being a hero and being loved." Those are a great deal of assertions without any proof what so ever. This article stated nothing about any of that with the exception of having a restraining order two years prior, and it does not state what the order was for.  This kid broke no laws. He did not display any actions that would be considered out of the ordinary for any teenager. His statement was meant to provoke an shock and awe reaction as indicated by the verbiage used. I am a psychologist with a several degrees from a Major D-I University and sir you have no idea what you are talking about.

bvckvs
bvckvs topcommenter

@jaded.maggi

We do not, yet, consider gun violence a mental illness.  So for now, such people have to be treated as criminals, rather than patients.

gordonhilgers
gordonhilgers

I am not particularly angry at the dim-bulb, limp-wristed fools for trying that little rabbit trick. 

All that wasted time and talent.  For what?  I cannot help but continue to ask: 

For what?  So the white coons of Highland Park can get "their negro" back? 

That's a laugh.  My family and many Black citizens across the South practically invented the Civil Rights movement. 

Why'd you do it?  Fix this.  Now. 

bvckvs
bvckvs topcommenter

@MissMacy

This isn't a generational issue, old timer; it's a technological one.

With that in mind, the geriatric set has as much or more difficulty in responsibly handling the newly enabled freedom it fosters.


GatoCat
GatoCat

@quadibloc1  You've never been in jail, have you. 17 guys in a cell meant for 10.  Guards come around three times a day, when meals are delivered. Assaults, both sexual and simply violent, are very common. Nobody cares.

stk34
stk34

@rockyboyy  said: "I have read  a thousand comments worse than the ones he mentioned"

No doubt, for anyone even cursory familiar with inet forum culture, the sarcastic tone of the comment in question is 101% obvious. Problem is, the people who charged the kid, don't belong to that group. Plus, I suspect, English is not their native language, so they don't see much difference between "yeah, sure, I will go and shoot a school" and "tomorrow I will shoot the school on my street". 

drobbs
drobbs

@richardLB  according to the article, he confessed that he posted it.

chrisirwindavis
chrisirwindavis

"Without the Facebook thread, how can they possibly validate the authenticity of the photo?"

They couldn't. That's why they tricked him into admitting it was his post without his lawyer present – as mentioned in the article.

scottie1620
scottie1620

@richardLB  Actually, there are quite a few states that are far more backward than Texas. Ever been to Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia, Kansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, Iowa? Any of those places makes Texas look like an advanced civilization, though I do agree with your sentiments about Texas being all too happy to support the commercial prison industry and the political aspirations of Neanderthal prosecutors and cops that give birth to that industry.

richardLB
richardLB

The introverted nerdy white male has always been the bogeyman. Culture has always ostracized and vilified them in some form or another. Profiling someone in a general sense and then acting upon that profile it just wrong. We as a culture are supposed to be smart enough to look past the profile and at the person in front of us before determining guilt or innocence.

Just because someone is smart and introverted doesn't make them dangerous. The moron who caused the Sandy Hook incident didn't fit that profile yet look at what he did.

I'd even go so far to say that the dumb ones are more dangerous.

stk34
stk34

@crowlymathew  In jail? for speech? ever heard about the piece called 1st amendment?

msbcez
msbcez

@dfwenigma @nonojoeyno Protection instead of abuse of power, would have been too put him into a mental institution for the obvious therapy he needs.  Not a jail to be raped, and probably come out more resentful against society than he was to begin with.  Way to be naive. But hey all the power words, and overly analytical droning on really made you sound intelligent so props!

gordonhilgers
gordonhilgers

Stupid, white, hairless monkeys do the darnedest things,don't they? 

Koko the Gorilla knows 350 words--maybe more.  The white coons of HP/UP know one: 

HATE. 

gumby1157
gumby1157

@chrisirwindavis Exactly. Which is why it's important to NEVER talk to the cops, because they WILL use it against you.

Pissed_off_Iowan
Pissed_off_Iowan

@scottie1620 @richardLB  


Most of those states maybe, but Iowa? Iowa has gay marriage, and is full of reasonable, pragmatic people for the most part. Take your great state back to 1846, we'll take the blacks that run away. 

scottie1620
scottie1620

@richardLB  If we, as a culture, were really all that intelligent, then we would never have elected dunces like Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush or Barack Obama as our Presidents. We are really not all that "cultured" or intelligent. We keep fighting against ourselves and destroying the only environment in which we live. We still practice racism, sexism and class warfare on every front, and then rationalize it by thinking that we are better than some other people.


We SHOULD be smart enough to look beyond profiling, but in reality we are not, and so we continue to do it, institutionally, on a daily basis. This one case is getting a lot of attention, but it happens every day in schools, workplaces, churches, city halls and everywhere else. Until we truly ascend from the present self-deluded cesspool of thinking we are better than we really are nothing will change.

richardLB
richardLB

Yes, people need to be aware of what they say (although I, for one, am very glad you are not part of our legal system). Screaming "fire" in a crowded theater, for example. Is a punishable crime because of the dangers and panic it causes. If the Facebook threat was true (they can't even prove that beyond a photo of a screen which may or may not have been altered), there should be some form of punishment.

Yes there was cause for concern.. His confirmed posts can be read as a cry for help. That is worrisome. Was prison the right "help?"

In this case, does the punishment does fit the crime? No. What did Texas just do? Sending someone to jail doesn't make them in to a better person or correct anything.. It is supposed to be a way for a person to "pay their debt to society." What debt did he owe at this point?

It makes one question: Did someone profit off of this (like the scandal in Florida where the judge was getting kickbacks from sending people to the privatized prison system?)

gordonhilgers
gordonhilgers

Remember Stanley Marcus and his dumber-than-a-box-of-rocks bit about "Upee", his friend from Mars?  I met Stanley Marcus: A heck of a nice man.  He had the best smile ever--as did Maya Angelou, although when I met her in the basement (I used to keep "I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings", her wonderful poetry collection behind my desk at the Dallas Public Library and would read one poem a day to get started with a little inspiration), but then of course is the weapons manufacturing industry and the contempt of the South's white supremacist spoiled baby makers. 

So sorry they had to go "on manipulate" the way they have. 

I will remain happy, but I do hope someone does get hung for what has happened. 

dsmithy3211
dsmithy3211

@stk34 @richardLB  Nope, it need not be specific. Go ahead and read the relevant portion of the Texas Penal Code (Section 22.07, to save you the googling).


To throw in a hypothetical, Simon Gruber in Die Hard with a Vengeance would have been found guilty of making a terroristic threat, even though he never mentioned the specific school the (fake) bomb was located in. 

stk34
stk34

@richardLB  in order for the facebook comment to be a threat. it had to be specific, i.e. mention THE school about to be attacked, AND made known to the people in that school, rather than to few complete anonymous strangers across the globe. I don't think that somebody who understands English can take the phrase "sure, I will shoot a school" as a threat. 

arthurposter
arthurposter

@scottie1620 @richardLB

I hate to break it to you, but they don't have it.  At least, they claim not to have it - that Facebook wouldn't turn it over.  Which is believable as they probably couldn't get a warrant for it.  If they do have it, then they are lying and suppressing potentially exculpatory evidence.  And if the feds do get involved in this, it will much more likely be to investigate the police agencies rather than to prosecute this kid over protected speech.


You really should read the article before you try to school someone else.

scottie1620
scottie1620

@richardLB  I hate to break it to you people who are ignorant about the technical world, but the legal authorities can most certainly prove exactly where the posts and photos came from - PRECISELY. Every on-line communication comes embedded with all sorts of logistical information, including the originating IP address of the computer from which it was sent, and that IP address can be traced to a specific physical address on a specific street in a specific city and state.


If you think you are anonymous on-line, then you are a complete fool! Spoofing and hacking may fool you, but it will not fool the FBI (or other intelligence agency) very long.

 
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