Heavy Metal Lyrics Posted To Facebook Result In Arrest For Terrorist Threats

from the so,-unfriending-just-isn't-harsh-enough? dept

Maybe the time has come for Facebook to implement a [Not a Threat] tag to go with its new [Satire] tag. That way, precious law enforcement resources won’t be expended hunting down and arresting someone who really isn’t threatening anyone.

WFIE 14 News is reporting that 31-year-old James Evans of Muhlenberg County, Kentucky was arrested on terroristic threatening charges after he posted lyrics from a song by the heavy metal band Exodus on Facebook. On August 24, Evans posted the following quote from the song “Class Dismissed (A Hate Primer)”, “Student bodies lying dead in the halls, a blood splattered treatise of hate. Class dismissed is my hypothesis, gun fire ends [the] debate.” Shortly thereafter, he was taken into custody by authorities under the rationale that his posting constituted a threat “to kill students and or staff at school,” according to his arrest warrant.

Evans ended up spending 8 days in jail for exercising his First Amendment rights. Terroristic threat charges haven’t been dropped but his case has been deferred for six months. He’s also been ordered to undergo a mandatory mental health evaluation — all for posting lyrics written by someone else.

According to Evans, even some of the officers he spoke to felt there was no reason he should have been arrested. But the statement made by (why?) the county’s school resource officer seems to indicate this response was perfectly justified. Resource officer Mike Drake said “multiple agencies” received calls about Evan’s post. When you have multiple complainants babbling about school shootings, you really can’t just sit around the precinct doing nothing. What you can do, however, is get a little context before booking someone on criminal charges. Turning someone into a criminal simply because they showed a little lack of judgement isn’t the appropriate response. Beyond that, there’s the First Amendment — which doesn’t cover actual threats but definitely protects stuff a bunch of people mistakenly viewed as a threat.

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Comments on “Heavy Metal Lyrics Posted To Facebook Result In Arrest For Terrorist Threats”

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That One Guy (profile) says:

Not a helpful alternative

Maybe the time has come for Facebook to implement a [Not a Threat] tag to go with its new [Satire] tag.

Given so many police, following after the FBI’s example, prefer their ‘threats’ to be harmless and homegrown, [Not a Threat] would just help them find more people to arrest, since they’d know it would require a minimum amount of work on their part, they’d never be in any real danger, and best of all, it would provide a nice, easy distraction from dealing with any real threats.

Though to be fair, if a number of agencies were phoning it in regarding one post, there are clearly far too many people with way too much free time on their hands, and worse, they all seem to have bought into the whole terrorist boogieman scare the government loves so much.

Not every threat, or potential threat is a ‘terrorist threat/danger’, but I suppose it makes them feel all tough and brave when they can pretend they’re ‘fighting terrorists’, rather than just dealing with regular people/criminals/idiots.

Ninja (profile) says:

Turning someone into a criminal simply because they showed a little lack of judgement isn’t the appropriate response.

I wonder, why would it be “lack of judgment”? What if he likes the group and thought this particular quote is kind of funny given his job or something? What if he was merely listening to the song and quoted some random part? Did the guy show solid evidence of mental issues, behavior problems etc etc?

Or are we prisoners of our own overblown fears of everything?

I wonder when we went from Contemporary Age into Scared-of-everything Age.

Note: this is not criticism aimed at Tim specifically but rather at us all. I also started thinking he could have chosen better lyrics but then I began asking myself when I had became so thin skinned.

ltlw0lf (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Or are we prisoners of our own overblown fears of everything?

Yes.

In a day-in-age of helicopter parents, people being thrown in jail for felonies for leaving their post-toddler kids playing video games in a car on a cool, cloudy day for a few seconds to run into the store to buy milk, and people who believe that we must hire PR firms to carefully monitor and scrutinize what we put up on Facebook, we have become prisoners of our own stupidity.

I still routinely get comments from people about what I chose to share here or on Facebook (and I really don’t share much.) I think we, as a society, have become too voyeuristic/stalkerish/creepy towards everything everyone else is doing wrong while ignoring our own faults and failings. Technology has certainly made this easier, but technology won’t solve this problem. Unless you are being hurt physically by someone ‘elses actions, or you have good reason to believe grave results will come from their failures, maybe it is best to worry about yourself and not what everyone else is doing. (It was good advice my mother gave me in elementary school too.)

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Aha. I think people are having an insanely hard time accepting that there are those who think differently and have different opinions. If we could agree in disagreeing over something without further implications (as in: trying to emerge “victorious” from the discussion) things would be much, much better. Or better yet, we could actually use dissenting opinions to make ourselves better.

bob (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Ninja: Agreed.
it reminds me of a comedian talking about someone who got shot (with a stray bullet) while pumping gas.
people referred to it as being “at the wrong place at the wrong time”..and the comedian properly pointed out that in fact, he was NOT in the wrong place at the wrong time. he was low on gas and was therefore at the gas station.
the right place at the right time.
there is no need to call his actions into question as he was doing absolutely nothing wrong.
Likewise, someone posting lyrics, no matter what lyrics, is doing nothing wrong.
Otherwise it’s like the kid who got tracked down because he had “fresh prince” on his voice mail (including “shooting some b-ball outside of the school”. ) and that got police to track him down and locked down several schools until that happened.
he also was doing nothing wrong.

where’s the line? research and context need to happen before arrests. that research and context will help define if a line is being approached, crossed, or doesn’t exist.

BentFranklin (profile) says:

That album is being release by label Nuclear Blast:

http://exodusattack.com/site/

Nuclear Blast is a German label:

http://www.nuclearblast.de/en/

Nuclear Blast is a RIAA member:

http://riaa.com/aboutus.php?content_selector=aboutus_members&f=n

Shouldn’t RIAA be exposed for profiting from dissemination of material that incites violence against children?

Anonymous Coward says:

Guilty until proven innocent

There is not a single constitutional right not under assault by the police or your neanderthal education system!

It is literally more important that we track down and ostracize or jail people that look or did something that could considered homophobic or racist, or downloaded something that RIAA did not like, or looked at a cop crossways instead of defending the founding principles of this Nation.

Scote (profile) says:

We really need more context to this. Just saying he posted lyrics from a song does not necessarily mean what he posted was not a threat. Granted, I think the cops need to have a sound reason rather than scare tactics before making an arrest, however one could easily make real and credible threats of imminent harm using song lyrics as a source. So, just saying “Song Lyrics!!!” doesn’t prove the issue one way or another.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

however one could easily make real and credible threats of imminent harm using song lyrics as a source.

Yes. One could. But he didn’t.

He’s 31. He’s not a student or teacher at any school and probably hasn’t been for some time. No specific school was mentioned in his post. Unless you can point to some person or building he actually threatened, the charge is bogus.

If there’s any context, it’s that he often posts song lyrics, and given that context this should have been taken as simply being more song lyrics.

JBDragon (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Did the guy threaten ANYONE? 1 Single person? No, then where’s the treat. Is this “Minority Report”? Is Tom Cruse around arresting people for Pre-Crimes??? The guy posted Lyrics of a Song!!! Did the Band arrested? They’re the ones who wrote them and then SING THEM to a bunch of people!!! Are they sitting in jail. I’d again ask why on them also. But there’s no crime going on. He did not threaten a single Kid.

This country really is going into the Dumps of hell and Communism. No war needed. We’re doing it to ourselves. I’d be suing someone for having to sit in jail for 8 days for doing nothing illegal. No crime, not a single thing did he do wrong.

dale (profile) says:

Re: If I quote Hitler, am I a Nazi?

Quoting a speech or song does not mean you endorse it.
Scholars who quote Hitler or Goebbels do so to help explain them, not to support their positions.

The song lyrics appear, to me, to be a critical commentary on mass shootings in schools.

If the lyrics were clearly indicated as lyrics, they cannot be assumed to be a literal statement endorsed by the poor schmuck who posted them.

Literalism is the way that totalitarian religions and regimes control the masses.

“Repeat a lie enough and people will believe it.” Goebbels

So arrest me!

Michael (profile) says:

Exodus’ management commented on the issue in a press release, saying, “The band Exodus does not promote or condone terrorists, threats or bullying. That being said, the band is somewhat baffled by the fact that this man being charged for what seems against his first amendment rights of Freedom of Speech.”

At least their reaction was not sending a C&D for violation of copyright on the lyrics.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

It’s because Exodus is like the first Thrash Metal band ever with slogans like “Kill The Poseurs”, they oppose society since Reagan…Sure they could have exagerated lyrics but Slayer themselves admitted to being 75% parody when it comes to lyrics, not Kerry King lyrics though, the guy writes about real things compared to the other members not just hell and satan heh.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: $$

Yes, but that’s reasonable – people shouldn’t be any worse off after they help the police with their enquiries if they’re innocent.

Similarly, if your house gets raided by the police, they should have to put it back as they found it (the cost should ultimately be extracted from the guilty party if they’e ever identified, but that’s for later, after they’re convicted). Curiously, in the DDR you did have the right to compensation for any damage done if the Stasi raided you, provided you didn’t mind being continuously harassed by them until they got bored or you took the hint.

Anonymous Coward says:

Call the authorities now

I am willing to bet those exact words are now pasted all over numerous documents in the possession of the police, prosecutors and others who went forward with this blatant violation of civil rights. Based on their logic though, just having that written down is a terrorist statement and they all need to have the same thing done to them.

Anonymous Coward says:

The county

But the statement made by (why?) the county’s school resource officer

It’s made by the county person because it can’t be made by anyone from any particular school because he did not actually threaten (or even mention) any particular school or school district. They just have some vague notion that he’d probably not bother to travel out of the county to do his shooting, I guess.

Michael (profile) says:

Re: Google

And what if he did subsequently shoot up a school while they were waiting for their crappy Comcast internet to return the Google result?

You would be up in arms if this had been posted, they did nothing, and he followed through with this threat and attacked a school.

Of course, they probably could have knocked on his door, asked “are you going to shoot up a school?” and when he said no, they could have asked a few questions, possibly acquired a warrant and searched his house (assuming he didn’t let them in, allow a search, and give them some lemonade), and gone back to their jobs. That may have been better than throwing him in a cell for more than a week and sending him for a psychiatric evaluation that will presumably let us all know that he likes crappy music.

Michael (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Google

Not at all.

I could see questioning him. If there seemed to be a reason to search, ask him to allow it, and if he refuses go to a judge with cause for a search (assuming you could find some) and get a warrant.

I’m pretty sure if I were a detective looking into this Facebook status, it would have gone like this:

Me: (knock knock) Excuse me, are you James Evans?
JE: Yes, I am.
Me: Did you post this on Facebook (showing him his status)
JE: Yes, I did.
Me: Are you planning on shooting up a school?
JE: Umm…no. Those are just song lyrics. I like the song.
Me: In this day and age, don’t you think that this may have rubbed a few people the wrong way? People have made calls about it.
JE: I wasn’t really thinking about that, but I guess so.
Me: Do you own any firearms?
JE: No.
Me: Given the situation, do you mind if we take a look in your house and car just to make sure you are an idiot that made a bad decision rather than a psychopath planning to kill a bunch of children?
JE: No problem. I have to get back to sitting in my mom’s basement with loud music playing while I eat hot pockets, but feel free to look around.
Me: Thanks. We will be out of here shortly.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Google

“Me: Given the situation, do you mind if we take a look in your house and car just to make sure you are an idiot that made a bad decision rather than a psychopath planning to kill a bunch of children?
JE: No problem.”

But what do they do if he says no? That’s not a hypothetical — if I were the one talking with the cops, I would never consent to such a search.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Google

“I wasn’t really thinking about that, but I guess so.”

…but if they don’t like it they don’t have to follow me on Facebook. I won’t censor myself because some idiots don’t like what I enjoy. They have many ways to not read my posts if they’re so offended.

Just pointing out that “I waive my right to free speech because someone might get offended” isn’t the only option here…

“you are an idiot that made a bad decision”

Why is posting lyrics from a song you like, presumably for the enjoyment of other metal fans you have as friends, a “bad decision”. Why does not considering the reaction of the most scared moron out there make him an “idiot”?

“I have to get back to sitting in my mom’s basement with loud music playing while I eat hot pockets”

Because no gainfully employed adult likes listening to music and posting lyrics they like to others during their down time…

Well, they may have been gainfully employed until their arrest and jail time for posting some song lyrics lost them that job, of course.

Your bias and silliness is duly noted.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Google

“You would be up in arms if this had been posted, they did nothing, and he followed through with this threat and attacked a school.”

You’re making an assumption here. Personally, I would not have been up in arms about the police if this had happened, because his post was not a threat.

Also, this argument is quickly becoming a pet peeve of mine. Why is it that “but, but, but, people will be pissed off if we don’t do this” is considered a legitimate point, but the fact that people will be pissed off if they do do it is not?

It seems to me that if the police are going to use their power to trample on someone’s rights, they need a reason that is a bit better than “if we didn’t trample his rights and he turned out to be a bad guy, people will be mad at us.”

“Of course, they probably could have knocked on his door, asked “are you going to shoot up a school?” and when he said no, they could have asked a few questions”

If there was a real concern, this is absolutely the way it should have been handled.

Michael (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Google

Also, this argument is quickly becoming a pet peeve of mine. Why is it that “but, but, but, people will be pissed off if we don’t do this” is considered a legitimate point, but the fact that people will be pissed off if they do do it is not?

I agree. The whole first section there was mostly rhetorical. I whole-heartedly think this entire thing should have been handled – at most – by a short conversation with the guy at his front door. Now, if he freaked out at the doorbell ringing, or there was an arsenal on the table behind him, that would be something different, but a detective knocking on his door and asking if he was nuts is probably as far as this needed to go.

Michael (profile) says:

After his release, James Evans said, “It’s nonsense. I feel like my civil rights have been violated. You know first amendment freedom of speech out the window. Even all the guys I was in the cell with they thought it was nonsense themselves. I had several officials tell me it was nonsense, that there was no reason why I should have even been here.”

Putting everything else aside, I have to say that I am particularly moved by the fact that everyone else in the cell with him thought this charge was bogus.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Think about what you just said.

Now think back to our founding fathers.

Whom said more and has done more for the freedom of innocent people? The Founding Fathers (literally terrorists by today’s definition), or the current day police and Government?

Really now? as things stand I might be more willing to trust a criminal over a government official!

Dan T. says:

Context is important

The article fails to give sufficient context to tell just how silly the charges are. The exact context of where this person posted those lyrics would matter a great deal. If it’s in a message thread about heavy metal lyrics, that’s a different thing than if it’s in reply to something announcing a local school event.

Unfortunately, things posted on the Internet have a strong tendency to end up getting taken out of context, so reactions to them might end up way out of proportion to the manner in which the posting was originally intended.

TruthHurts says:

Ignorance in Schools isn't from the Students

This is absolutely ludicrous. I would be filing civil rights violations lawsuits against the police department, county/state attorneys as well as the school involved with the charges, and take away their budget for the next 50 years.

1st Amendment trumps idiots working for the school and morons working for the police department.

I’d have their badges and see them in prison for false arrest, falsifying charges, lying to a judge to get a warrant, etc.. Let them rot in prison for trampling on civil rights.

Michael (profile) says:

Re: Ignorance in Schools isn't from the Students

While there is a quote from the resident storm trooper from a local school, there is really nothing to suggest that the school had anything to do with him being arrested.

There is an indication that “multiple” agencies were warned about his Facebook status and local police took the ball and ran with…well, rammed it somewhere.

While I can understand reacting, questioning him, and possibly getting a warrant for a search if he did not simply allow one, 8 DAYS IN A CELL? Presumably, a threat of an attack on a school would get a little priority – I cannot come up with any justification for this particular investigation taking longer than a few hours.

Anonymous Coward says:

He’s also been ordered to undergo a mandatory mental health evaluation

Can we get those for politicians? And corporate executives? And cops?

I’m legitimately concerned for the mental health of pretty much everyone in a position of power in this country. We can barely struggle to maintain physical health; nobody even cares about mental health. Police routinely gun down unarmed pedestrians, the president talks about torturing prisoners like it was as mundane as shopping for socks, we’ve got world-ruining megacorporations writing laws that prevent competition, and so on.
We’re a nation of broken people. How do we get help?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

The first step to getting help is admitting that there is a problem…

Now which of those in power is going to actually ADMIT that they have a problem???

Yeah, I thought so… bring on the revolution (I think I hear the black copters approaching already… dang those guys are fast on following up on random posts, not so much on actual plots or activities).

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

He’s also been ordered to undergo a mandatory mental health evaluation

Gary Holt (Exodus Lead guitarist, singer, lyricist” should turn himself to a nuthouse in protest to this, or go even more public.

Reminds me of 1986 when some numbnuts were trying to tie Slayer to neo-nazism and how long people not into Slayer believed that, early 2000’s they still had to explain lyrics behind Angel Of Death….

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: 1986 the backmasking / Satanism scare was still going.

Yeah as late as 1986, they were still scared that metal turned teens into mind-controlled satanists through secret back-masked messages.

It was only when gangsta rap came out that the moral powers decided they’d rather have that good ol’ Satanic death metal, but then the rap cat was out of the proverbial bag.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Disgusted

Reminds me of the spoken part before Triumph Of The Swill by the Dead Kennedys from 1986 : “Tonight we found our son dead from a gunshot wound, he had headphones on and an Ozzy record playing…so we called our lawyer!” I tell you things are going on in reverse with the supposedly most liberal President ever.

John85851 (profile) says:

What is this country coming to?

For all the posts who say “he should have thought about that before posting”: when did we get to the point in this country where we have to self-censor ourselves because someone somewhere might get offended? Why are we so scared that someone will post a song lyric to Facebook or Twitter and go shoot people? Have we been watching too much CSI and Criminal Minds??

And who was the school administrator who found the guy’s Facebook post and called police “just in case”. Really? He honestly thought this guy was a threat to his school district? With what evidence? And the police believed this person, arrested the guy, and held him in jail for 8 days?!

Like I said, what is this country coming to?

Uriel-238 on a mobile device (profile) says:

Re: Re: Now that it is an arrestable offense to say the wrong thing at the wrong time...

…on the basis of offense by or reports from concerned citizens then we should go ahead and make it arresable if the police get offended, say, of a video recording on YouTube that makes cops look unfavorable, or of opinions that may paint the police in a bad light (such as “Cops Lie”).

Heck, a corporate officer who takes offense at a bad review of his company should be able to call it in and get the police to investigate the dissatisfied customer…er…subversive element.

In fact, why don’t we attribute any instance of dissent or grief or artistic license or creative expression (that someone with power doesn’t like) with stupidity worthy of investigation, a SWAT raid and detainment.

That’ll keep the peace.

Oh wait: we tried that for hundreds of years and thought it was a really shitty way to live. In fact we enshrined in our constitution an ammendment about that. Arresting people for saying things is a really crappy idea.

Are people so uneducated, and so far removed from how shitty an idea dictatorships are that we have to experience them first hand before we gripe? I thought that was the whole point of Joffrey in SoIaF.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Tempting fate.

This thread is still active?

Sometimes a man has to tempt fate:

I’ve been waiting for this
I have been waiting for this
All you people in TV land
I will wake up your empty shells
Peak-time viewing blown in a flash
As I burn into your memory cells
‘Cos I’m alive

They’re coming ’round the corner with the bikers at the front
I’m wiping the sweat from my eyes
–It’s a matter of time
–It’s a matter of will
And the governor’s car is not far behind
He’s not the one I’ve got in mind
‘Cos there he is-the man of the hour, standing in the limousine
“I don’t really hate you
–I don’t care what you do
We were made for each other
–Me and you
I want to be somebody
–You were like that too
If you don’t get given you learn to take
And I will take you.

Holding my breath
Release the catch
And I let the bullet fly

— peter gabriel, Family Snapshot

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