Five Years After His Arrest, Prosecutors Try To Push Back Justin Carter's 'Terroristic Threat' Trial

from the pointless-move-meant-to-extend-the-defendant's-misery dept

Way back in the summer of 2013, Justin Carter, a teen living in Texas, made a joke on Facebook while chatting with other League of Legends players. Responding to facetious comments he was insane, Carter sarcastically agreed, using a very regrettable choice of words.

Oh yeah, I’m real messed up in the head, I’m going to go shoot up a school full of kids and eat their still, beating hearts…

This was followed with “lol” and “jk,” which would indicate Carter wasn’t taking his words seriously and neither should anyone else. Unfortunately, someone in Canada took his words seriously and reported him to law enforcement. Prosecutors decided to bring terroristic threat charges against the 18-year-old, taking his comments both seriously and out of context.

Things went from stupid to insane quickly. Prosecutors got the judge to agree to set bail at $500,000. Carter’s family was unable to get him released while he awaited trial. During the time he was locked up, Carter reported being beaten frequently by other inmates and placed on “suicide watch” by jailers. “Suicide watch” basically translates to being stripped of all belongings and most of your clothing and being sent to solitary confinement.

Fortunately, an anonymous donor paid Carter’s insane bail to spring him from jail. If this person hadn’t, there’s a good chance Carter would still be locked up, if not actually dead. Carter isn’t a hardened criminal with a long juvenile rap sheet. He’s a young gamer who said something stupid online and has since been subjected to the full force of prosecutorial discretion.

Five years later, he’s still waiting to go to trial. The trial was due to start February 20 but prosecutors filed a motion asking the judge to push the trial date out even further.

The motion, filed Feb. 13 by Assistant District Attorney Clayten Hearrell in Comal County’s 247th District Court, argues that the state needs more time to pursue a Canadian witness who first reported Carter’s comments to authorities in 2013.

This sounds like prosecutors simply want to make Carter’s life hell for as long as possible. This isn’t the move of an attorney who feels he has a strong case to pursue. For most of the last half-decade, Carter has been technically free, but his movements limited due to his pending trial. On top of that, Carter has been forbidden from using any online services without the prior written consent of the corrections department.

Carter’s lawyer is justifiably angry.

Flanary said Monday that he was caught off guard by the state’s motion. “What have they been doing for the past five years?” he asked of Hearrell and his fellow prosecutors. Flanary also noted how the witness the state is trying to secure would not add much to the prosecution’s case, because Carter is not denying he posted the comments in question. Rather, Carter asserts that he posted the comments sarcastically, and thus should not be considered a serious threat.

This is a damn good question: what exactly would this person add to the state’s case, considering her testimony would be completely redundant. Does the state think the key to securing a conviction is a jury hearing firsthand how one person took Carter’s comments seriously enough to report them to law enforcement? As his lawyer points out, Carter isn’t disputing the fact he posted the comments, so there’s nothing this Canadian “witness” could possibly add, other than an unfamiliar accent.

Fortunately for Carter, the presiding judge is no more impressed by the prosecution’s last-minute attempt to push Carter’s trial even further down the road.

“There’s no continuance on a 5-year-old case,” [Judge Jack Robison] said, setting the trial for May 14.


Robison said in court Tuesday that Carter’s trial would have been held right then and there if a settlement had been reached in the only case ahead of him on the court’s docket — for which a large jury pool was assembled in the courtroom.

This is better but it still allows the state to control Carter’s life for a couple more months. His original trial date was supposed to be February 20th. Prosecutors didn’t get the indefinite extension they wanted, but they do get to keep Carter on ice for another 60 days.

I’m sure prosecutors feel jurors won’t take Carter’s comments as seriously as they do. They seem intent on locking Carter up for a long time, even though context makes it clear the post was joke. The state offered a plea deal — eight years in prison — but this has been rejected by Carter and his counsel. Juries can sometimes be unpredictable, but this last-ditch continuance request reeks of desperation — an attempt to put off an inevitable acquittal for as long as possible. It’s almost as though the prosecution has bought into the Sunk Cost Fallacy and can’t stop throwing resources at its lemon of a case.

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Comments on “Five Years After His Arrest, Prosecutors Try To Push Back Justin Carter's 'Terroristic Threat' Trial”

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That One Guy (profile) says:

That's one option

It’s almost as though the prosecution has bought into the Sunk Cost Fallacy and can’t stop throwing resources at its lemon of a case.

Alternatively, and rather worse, they could be stalling in an attempt to force him to fold(which thankfully didn’t work), and/or to avoid having to discuss the case to anyone else.

So long as it’s pending they can always dodge any questions with ‘we can’t comment on an ongoing case’, but once it actually goes to court, win or lose, it becomes a lot harder to dodge the question ‘What the hell is wrong with you?!

They screwed up in epic fashion, and rather than own it they doubled down for five years. Every last person involved needs to be sacked and barred from ever working in the legal/law enforcement field again.

Cowardly Lion says:

Re: That's one option

Indeed. I struggled to get past: “The state offered a plea deal — eight years in prison”

And there I was thinking the US was all about “no cruel and unusual punishments”… never mind sacked and barred, there’s a special place in Hell reserved for these sadistic and degenerate sacks of excrement.

Simon Metzger says:

Re: Re: That's one option

not to mention his right to mention right to a speedy trial. Honestly this whole thing is going on because a confession is the only thing that will save their hides. Otherwise they have to account for multiple violations of this boys constitutional rights.

The prosecutor perjured himself to a grand jury, violated the kids 6th amendment rights along with his right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Their tactics amount to using torture to secure a testimony. IF he win’s I suspect he should have no trouble suing the s@#$ out of that county. Oh, almost forgot his rape while in police custody.

spodula (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Sadly, its basically impossible to hold Prosecuters responsible for anything, even serious misconduct. This doesnt even come close to that.

I agree, with earlier posters, in that they expected him to fold for the plea deal (In which case they should have set a resonable one), but he didnt.

I also think that if it actually hits a jury, it will be laughted out.

The Wanderer (profile) says:

Re: Re:

This phrase, like similar ones (e.g. the daylight-savings-time “spring forward, fall back” alleged mnemonic) has a problem of ambiguity: the direction intended is not clearly conveyed by the terms used.

To move an event “back” could mean to shift it “backward in time”, i.e., to the past, or to shift it “backward in the queue of “pending” items”, i.e., postpone the time when it is scheduled to happen. Both uses of “back” are standard idiom, and no matter which interpretation you default to, it’s perfectly natural; as long as the two senses of “move back” are both in general usage, the phrase is not enough to clearly convey which is meant.

(In some cases, such as this one, context can clear up the ambiguity – but that doesn’t mean the phrase itself is any less ambiguous.)

The phrase “move forward” has the analogous problem in reverse. I have, in fact, seen both phrases used with each of the two possible senses; always assuming the same direction (past/future) for each would have resulted in being wrong at least part of the time.

MinchinWeb (profile) says:

Right to a Speedy Trial

It sounds like the US might be due for its own version of the (Canadian) "Jordan decision". R v Jordan defined what the "right…to a be tried within a reasonable time" meant: 18 months for most provincial cases, and 30 months for other cases.

Although I admit it’s a little startling to read headlines like "204 cases tossed over delays since […] Jordan"…

Coyne Tibbets (profile) says:

Re: Re:

The right usually gets waived. Depending on jurisdiction, the prosecutor has 60 to 120 days to bring a defendant to trial. So the way it usually works, is on day 58 (of 60) the prosecution dumps a truckload of evidence on the defense. ("Sorry for the delay.") That gives the defense too little time to prepare, and to ask for a continuance, they have to waive the right. Isn’t it clever how that works?

Once the right has been waived (use it or lose it) then the prosecution can take as long as it wants. So you have trials that drag out for years, while the defendant rots on remand.

Anonymous Coward says:

The "Justice" system has a serious problem.

In that those involved don’t look upon their job as being a search for justice, but instead as a sort of “game” where they need to maintain a favorable win/lose percentage. And because they treat justice as some sort of zero balance game, the actual search for justice doesn’t happen, nor even enters into consideration.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

I took a case that would get me great soundbites.
We stuffed his ass in jail & allowed him to be beaten and put on ‘suicide watch’ to break his will…
We thought he would jump at the 8yr deal so we’d have another notch in my run for higher office!
How dare this little bastard demand a speedy trial, we’re gonna keep him in custody for at least another 8 years!!!

We thought for sure we had broken him so we never even bothered to get the evidence from the Canadian for over 5 years.

Malicious prosecution, misusing state resources, DOC violations of the accused rights, Counseling will be required, Delaying the trial to force someone to accept a plea rather than be put back in jail for more beatings and torture.

I see a lovely lawsuit just waiting.

nick says:

Re: And it would have worked

the prosecutors can eat a bag of dicks. worthless pieces of human garbage. how do they justify their waste of oxygen? how do they sleep at night? i just dont understand. what twisted story do they repeat to themselves every day to avoid jumping off the bridge for being worthless pieces of dirt?

stk33 says:

Unexpectedly, the government offered a plea deal which Carter took – he pleaded guilty to misdemeanor of false alarm, so this unbelievable travesty of justice is finally over. Of course he in fact did not create any false alarm either, but his family was happy to take the deal rather than continue.
This offer was even more surprising given that exactly now, after shootings, the prosecution seemed to have more than ever chances to actually find him guilty.

nick says:

Re: listen, you can't be stupid online

the rule should be you shouldnt take anything online seriously unless you have very good reasons to suspect otherwise —- not the reverse. you want everyone to self police? be afraid to say something even remotely out of context, or JOKE about something, because uncle fucking sam will break your door down like in 1984 and drag you off to re-education camps? what fucking country is this?

Anonymous Coward says:

Now I see

I used to make a post on facebook criticising the fact that the government firing a disabled person as a suspected terrorist simply because he lived in another country for a few years. My mother told me, “they can arrest you for that, remove the post immediately!” I was like, “Arrested for criticism? People would laugh at you!”… Now I understand what she meant.

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