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.

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

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Ninja (profile) says:

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…

Angel (profile) says:

Re: 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…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: 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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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!!

Josef Anvil (profile) says:

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.

crade (profile) says:

Re: 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.

Josef Anvil (profile) says:

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.

Ron Hunter says:

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.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

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?

Capitalist Lion Tamer (profile) says:

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.”

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

Matthew Cline (profile) says:

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.

brandon e says:

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.

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