Teen's Joke 'Threat' Lands Him In Solitary; While Cop Saying He Wants To 'Kill' The First Lady Walks Free

from the just-because-you-enforce-the-laws-doesn't-mean-they-don't-apply-to-you dept

In life, there are often (at minimum) two sets of rules -- one that applies to average people, and one that applies to those on a more rarefied plane. Our legislators do it all the time, enacting laws that they have little intention of following or carving out exceptions in those that already exist.

The law enforcement community is one of the worst offenders of the double standard. Unwritten rules protect bad cops and a nearly universal "hands off" policy ensures everything from minor traffic violations to drunk driving will be neatly swept under the rug.

Mike Riggs at Reason points out a particularly egregious application of the double standard. In recent months, a pair of teens have been arrested and arraigned on terrorism charges stemming from some ill-advised postings. Cameron D'Ambrosio, whose charges were ultimately dropped, was held without bail for two months as prosecutors pursued "communicating terrorist threat" charges. Justin Carter, a teen who made some unfortunate remarks during the course of some perfectly normal video game smack-talking, was arrested on March 27th and is still in jail.

For this transgression, Carter was not just investigated, but arrested. He's been in jail for months now, held on $500,000 bail. His attorney says he's been beaten several times and placed on suicide watch; suicide watch, in case you didn't know, translates to "placed naked in solitary confinement."
D'Ambrosio's "threat" was non-specific and more centered on bragging about his impending rap fame. The inclusion of the Boston Bombing and the White House into his boasting caught the attention of local law enforcement. Carter's smack talking mentioned shooting up a kindergarten, ending with indications he was joking. In both cases, there was context surrounding the comments and neither "threat" was targeted at any specific person or group of people.

Contrast these two cases with one involving a District of Columbia police officer.
D.C. Police Officer Christopher Picciano, "a 17-year veteran who was a member of the elite presidential motorcade detail," will be suspended without pay for a little over a month after joking about killing the first lady, threatening to go on a shooting spree, and calling Pres. Obama a communist.
No jail time. No terrorism charges. No trip to solitary confinement. No being held without bail. Here's a cop, who lives and works in DC, including working in close proximity with the president, who stated specifically he'd "wanted to kill" Michelle Obama, and yet, he walks away almost unscathed.

The lack of overzealous prosecutors is also conspicuous in its absence.
According to the Washington Post, the U.S. attorney's office declined to press charges against Picciano because it "agree[d] with the Secret Service that Picciano was not serious with his comment about Michelle Obama." Picciano also "wrote on Facebook about taking a rifle to a tall building," after the D.C. Council voted to trim pension benefits for the MPD. That wasn't serious either, apparently.
The prosecutors "agreed with the Secret Service." That's rather cozy. Too bad no prosecutors went looking for anything other than having their biases confirmed when dealing with Carter and D'Ambrosio. In both teens' cases, their homes, belongings and computers were searched but investigators were unable to find anything more damning than the posts in questions. No weapons. No evidence of any intent to carry out these "threats." No background suggesting these threats should be taken seriously. And yet, both teens were incarcerated. Justin Carter is still in jail.

That's the process for everyday Americans, especially injudicious teens. Here's the flip side of the double standard.
Picciano joked about killing the first lady and going on a Charles Whitman-esque shooting spree, yet remains free and employed in a job that allows him to carry a gun; Carter, a 19-year-old who doesn't own a gun, joked about shooting up a school, and is being kept naked in solitary confinement as a result.
As Riggs points out, law enforcement members are given a benefit of doubt that's rarely extended to the general public. This low level cronyism further drives a wedge between citizens and so-called "public servants" who shield each other from the repercussions of their words and actions. Law enforcement members have defended themselves by stating they need to "take every threat seriously." Obviously, that's nothing more than self-serving bullshit used to justify the overzealous prosecution of a few mouthy teens.



Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  •  
    icon
    Ninja (profile), Jul 10th, 2013 @ 5:02am

    Even if Carter is released what will be the psychological consequences of the abuses he is suffering? Will he joke freely as he did before the incident or will he be afraid of his own country? What about D'Ambrosio possible rapper career? Was it killed before he could hone his skills?

    In any case, the double standards are not exclusive of the US. Law enforcement is seen as a threat in a level similar to the real criminals in quite a few places around the world (and I am including my home country in that mix). I think every human being have a little tyrant inside them. Give them enough power and that tyrant will come out in an awfully large chunk of the population. Look no farther than the workplace where people with very little authority over others incur in psychological harassment. The ultimate issue in the US for instance is that the authority goes unchecked because the Govt itself has become some psychopathic megalomaniac itself with the aid of the corporations money. Again, it's happening everywhere, the US is just the most visible example because they bragged about being the land of the free...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      Angel (profile), Jul 10th, 2013 @ 12:54pm

      Re:

      This too is my concern. By all accounts carter was a pretty good 18year old. He actually had a job (and as the mother of a 19 year old believe me when I say that in itself is accomplishment lol). But now that this has happened, even if the charges are dropped. What kind of a person will be when/if he is released. Will he still become a contributing member of society or will be end up depressed and "medicated" or possibly even worse, angry and next actually do something to hurt people. What a horrible place we live in when we are possibly creating our monsters...

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        icon
        btrussell (profile), Jul 10th, 2013 @ 2:48pm

        Re: Re:

        "What a horrible place we live in when we are possibly creating our monsters..."

        No possibly about it. We are.

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, Jul 11th, 2013 @ 4:06am

        Re: Re:

        I believe this actions are done by the government so they create ager from the people and have excuses to protect themselves.

        Sooner or later the regular american will be no more than a slave with a paycheck. You work, they pay you for it but in return you have to shut up and do what they say...

        I sure don't want to visit the US. They might look at me at the airport and decide i'm a terrorist threat because I have a beard or something.

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 10th, 2013 @ 6:59am

    Its all about the D.A.

    The real difference is that a kid is easy to make an example of, whereas with an old cop, not so much.

    These people look for an easy case, something to further their career, prosecuting a kid, is often the easiest way, its sick and demented, but its true.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Jul 10th, 2013 @ 8:20am

      Re: Its all about the D.A.

      "The real difference is that a kid is easy to make an example of, whereas with an old cop, not so much."

      The cop is a better example than the kid if you want to show that this type of behavior is unacceptable.

      However the DA would get a lot of flack if they put a decorated cop of 17 years behind bars compared to some kid no one has heard of or cares about.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, Jul 10th, 2013 @ 8:59am

        Re: Re: Its all about the D.A.

        The cop is a better example than the kid if you want to show that this type of behavior is unacceptable.

        It's all in what sort of "example" you want to make, really.

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 10th, 2013 @ 7:02am

    The police need to catch a few terrorists to justify all the paranoia and claims for special powers. Teenagers are famed for being rebellious, while police are people of good standing, so of course they are treated differently. /s

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 10th, 2013 @ 7:09am

    this ha been done against the kids because it can be done. it's been done to scare the living fuck out of them and anyone else that may have said similar things under similar circumstances. like stated, a person in a uniform that is permitted to carry (and if deemed necessary by that person) and to discharge a firearm, whilst in close proximity to the president of the US and his family, doesn't even get a 'be careful what you say'. the kids, however, get jail time and naked incarceration. and people still done think or admit that the US is or close to being a Police State? best wake up, people before you're caught out for good!!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Jul 10th, 2013 @ 11:52am

      Re:

      What is happening to Carter goes WAY beyond "scare the fuck out of him" into the realm of "abuse the shit out him to scare everyone else who would even THINK of opposing them."

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    Josef Anvil (profile), Jul 10th, 2013 @ 7:22am

    A bit complex

    After reading the Washington Post article, it seems pretty clear that the officer in question was not making a serious threat, but at the same time it was clearly not a joke.

    He appears to have strong political views that are have no real basis in reality, such as believing the POTUS is a communist. Even idiots should be protected by the 1st Amendment.

    The big issue here is that the officer had means to actually attempt a crime, while the teens were obviously just joking. It's sad that no one in the justice system has been able to summon any common sense about those kids.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    crade (profile), Jul 10th, 2013 @ 7:30am

    Holy thought police Batman.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    jupiterkansas (profile), Jul 10th, 2013 @ 7:31am

    They are treated different because a well-paid police officer is more likely to fight back in court. If you have money you get the benefit of the doubt no matter what you say or do.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      crade (profile), Jul 10th, 2013 @ 7:36am

      Re:

      Cops aren't that well paid, it's not like the whole middle class gets a get out of jail free card, Wouldn't be surprised if the teens' parents are at least as well off financially as the cop is.

      It's cuz they are cops.. They are above the law. Especially stupid laws. Things like an anti-joking law are really only used to punish people they don't like.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, Jul 10th, 2013 @ 9:31am

        Re: Re:

        They have police unions. They give them incredible backing and bitch even if they're convicted even if they are guilty as sin.

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    Darnell Barnstromer, Jul 10th, 2013 @ 7:50am

    Let's face it, shooting mostly white school children is serious business whereas shooting another nigger... not so much.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 10th, 2013 @ 8:14am

    It's especially a double standard on making a threat to the first lady, since when Bush was in office there was one case of the secret service arresting a guy and keeping him in jail for over 2 years. His crime? Holding an anti-Bush sign near President Bush.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Rekrul, Jul 10th, 2013 @ 8:32am

    Notice how most all crimes/threats today are suddenly labeled "terrorist"? Is it any coincidence that many legal protections don't apply when someone is labeled a terrorist?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Alt0, Jul 10th, 2013 @ 8:51am

      Re:

      This is a great point.
      I see no way where none of the above incidents would evoke "terror" of any kind.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      Josef Anvil (profile), Jul 10th, 2013 @ 9:01am

      Re: Well said

      The term terrorism has been completely perverted by the political/legal system.

      When I hear terrorism, I think of an extended campaign designed to inspire fear in a group, not random acts of violence. Terrorism in legal speak, has become any action that scares people.

      Mugging, robbery, rape, assault, verbal and non-verbal threats, any and all violent crime is now terrorism.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, Jul 10th, 2013 @ 9:34am

        Re: Re: Well said

        Forget terrorism, when I hear security in any context except from actual computer experts I think of fear mongering to justify the unjustifiable and let their unaccountable fascism go unquestioned.

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Lesson Learned, Jul 10th, 2013 @ 9:39am

    Remember kids, if you want to break the law become a cop first.

    If were a cop I would not have three felonies on my record today. "Mass Prescription forgery"

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 10th, 2013 @ 9:46am

    I think an online poll asking American citizens If they view Law enforcement tactics as a form of terrorism would seal the deal .. kids will be kids they say and make bad decisions as do all people but to be honest if I were those kids parents I'd be pushing for discrimination charges

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    PRMan, Jul 10th, 2013 @ 10:42am

    There is one more difference...

    Washington DC vs. Texas

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Ron Hunter, Jul 10th, 2013 @ 11:26am

    Equal protection, etc.

    The tone of this article is very biased. I get the impression that the writer feels the teen was seriously discriminated against, and that the officer wasn't punished. Facts related don't seem to support his at all. Making a remark online is a bit different from making one to an individual, as out of line as it was, and both received punishment. Perhaps had the teen had 17 years of law enforcement to mitigate his comments, he would have received equal treatment.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      John Fenderson (profile), Jul 10th, 2013 @ 11:34am

      Re: Equal protection, etc.

      I can't tell if this comment is sarcastic or not, so maybe a *whoosh* is in order here.

      Making a remark online is a bit different from making one to an individual, as out of line as it was, and both received punishment.


      Neither should have been punished, but only the teen actually was. Losing your job because you pissed off you employer is not the same as being punished by a court of law.

      Perhaps had the teen had 17 years of law enforcement to mitigate his comments, he would have received equal treatment.


      Are you seriously arguing that there really should be a different set of effective laws for police vs ordinary citizens?

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      Capitalist Lion Tamer (profile), Jul 10th, 2013 @ 2:55pm

      Re: Equal protection, etc.

      I get the impression that the writer feels the teen was seriously discriminated against, and that the officer wasn't punished. Facts related don't seem to support his at all.

      First off, yes -- the article is very biased. It's biased because I believe the teen has had the system thrown against him for a comment that was ugly, but still clearly innocuous when context is considered. The officer meanwhile works in close proximity to the party he DIRECTLY threatened and had both the weapons and the access to carry it out. One is in solitary confinement with bail set at $500,000. The other is a free man facing 40 days suspension. It's not just my article that's biased.

      The facts are in the post and what's not in there is available by following the links. If you'd like to point out where the facts don't agree with what I've written, feel free.

      Making a remark online is a bit different from making one to an individual, as out of line as it was, and both received punishment

      This demands an explanation. As you've written it, it seems to indicate an online threat should receive more scrutiny and more punishment than a threat spoken to another person. I'm curious as to why you feel that way. The teen's post was a response to another person, not unlike a conversation. If you believe the method of delivery adds to the perceived "seriousness" of the threat, I'd be very interested in hearing an explanation of this rationale.

      Perhaps had the teen had 17 years of law enforcement to mitigate his comments, he would have received equal treatment.

      Perhaps. Or perhaps if the teen didn't have a criminal record or possess anything, either in his personal effects or online, that indicated this threat was serious or he had the ability, much less the potential to carry it out, it might mitigate his comments. But it didn't.

      Or maybe if the teen's other words and actions indicated some sort of mindset or pattern, the authorities might have let him off as easily as they did this officer.

      From the Washington Post article:

      "A District police officer accused of threatening Michelle Obama has been cleared of administrative charges related to the first lady but was found guilty of posting a derogatory job description on social media and depicting the president as a communist, his attorney said Monday."

      Oh, so the cop posts stuff "online" as well... hmmm.

      "But during the investigation, detectives found troubling though unrelated postings on the officer’s LinkedIn and Facebook accounts."

      Wow, he's all over the internet. Remind me again about how posting stuff online differs from in-person comments?

      "Angry with the D.C. Council over a vote to curtail pension benefits, Picciano wrote on Facebook about taking a rifle to a tall building."

      Christ. Again with the Facebook.

      Ball's in your court. Perhaps you can find me some damning quotes from Justin Carter to justify his treatment. You can have your "mitigation." I'll keep my "bias."

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 10th, 2013 @ 11:26am

    Law enforcement HAS been and still IS ridiculously out of line. Sometimes I do not know if they're there to help others or help THEMSELVES. The only way around the law is to be in it, and even if you do not commit a crime you are charged with one thing or another or given tickets to pay because people are money hungry.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Jul 10th, 2013 @ 12:06pm

      Re:

      "Law enforcement HAS been and still IS ridiculously out of line. Sometimes I do not know if they're there to help others or help THEMSELVES."

      I've heard people call NFL players "thugs in uniforms". I always ask: what does that makes the police?

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 10th, 2013 @ 11:54am

    Police state.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    JustMe (profile), Jul 10th, 2013 @ 12:44pm

    Sounds like

    Christopher Picciano is an idiot who should not be allowed to have the honor of serving as a law enforcement officer.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 10th, 2013 @ 1:11pm

    Who gets the reward money for the capture of these teenaged terrorist? As I recall, George Bush Jr. put up reward money for foiling terror plots and the apprehension of terrorist suspects "Dead or a Live"...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 10th, 2013 @ 2:58pm

    why??

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    MikeC (profile), Jul 10th, 2013 @ 3:35pm

    American Just-Us

    This is a perfect example of the American Just-Us system for just us with money and pull, or a member of the privileged few.

    " "If you're looking for justice, that's just what you'll find -- just us." - Richard Pryor

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    Jeffrey Nonken (profile), Jul 10th, 2013 @ 3:42pm

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Erik, Jul 10th, 2013 @ 11:18pm

    Starts with the clap!!

    Conduct on handling both persons: Starts with the clap.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Erik, Jul 10th, 2013 @ 11:19pm

    Starts with the slow clap!!

    Conduct on handling both persons: Starts with the slow clap.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    Matthew Cline (profile), Jul 10th, 2013 @ 11:39pm

    To play devil's advocate:

    1) IANAL, but my impression is that political speech gets more protection than non-political speech. The cop's statements were political, while the teenager's statements weren't.

    2) Perhaps the Obama administration exerted pressure to stop prosecution, because it didn't want to be perceived as thin-skinned.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      btrussell (profile), Jul 11th, 2013 @ 3:38am

      Re:

      "1) IANAL..."

      Nor I, but it seems to me, had the kid made the statement that the cop did, it wouldn't be a political statement but rather a terrorist death threat.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 11th, 2013 @ 4:02am

    I say bomb the police station he's being held on, and save him from that shithole.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Jul 11th, 2013 @ 4:11am

      Re:

      I am of course not intending to do anything liek this, I am merely expressing my disagreement with them destroying a young kid life because they had no education at home.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 12th, 2013 @ 4:41am

    Solitary sux!!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    brandon e, Jul 31st, 2013 @ 4:21pm

    if only someone played lol

    then none of this would have happened. if someone does bad in a game as (more) competitive than, and im not joking at all, pro football, people say WAY worse than that. No really, the abuse you get from these games for doing poorly is unmatched, so he was used to adapting comebacks as.. harsh as the one he said. People need to calm the hell down. Also, he has no criminal record of violence i GUARANTEE.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
A word from our sponsors...
Essential Reading
Techdirt Reading List
Techdirt Insider Chat
A word from our sponsors...
Recent Stories
A word from our sponsors...

Close

Email This