MA Teen Arrested And Held Without Bail For Posting Supposed 'Terrorist Threat' On Facebook

from the being-a-lousy-rapper-still-not-a-crime dept

I'm going to take a guess and say the national Terrorism Mood Ring is still set to 'OVERREACT' if this story is any indication. Cameron D'Ambrosio, a Methuen, MA high school student, was arrested May 1st and charged with "communicating terroristic threats" based on a Facebook posting. He is being held without bail pending a hearing on May 9th and could face up to 20 years in jail for making a "bomb threat."

The threat (at least the one that appeared on Facebook), as reported by the Boston Herald, reads as follows. (For best results, fill in the blanks Mad Libs-style and spell "bombing" correctly.)

“I’m not in reality, So when u see me (expletive) go insane and make the news, the paper, and the (expletive) federal house of horror known as the white house, Don’t (expletive) cry or be worried because all YOU people (expletive) caused this (expletive).

(Expletive) a boston bominb wait till u see the (expletive) I do, I’ma be famous rapping, and beat every murder charge that comes across me!"
This was posted to D'Ambrosio's Facebook page, which looks altogether similar to thousands of teens' Facebook pages. (Source: I am the parent of a teenager.) Also, like thousands of Facebook-using teens, D'Ambrosio fancies himself a rapper and his "threat" appears to be nothing more than some "lyrics" in search of a quality jeep beat. (I'm dating myself with that last term.)

So, how does some par-for-the-course teenage Facebook post become a "threat?" Well, it takes a very specific chain of events. The official Methuen PD blog breaks it all down (and throws a lot of exclamation points around in its headlines for some strange reason).
Today, Tuesday, May 1, 2013, at approximately 12:20, Methuen High School students reported to administration that they had received a Facebook phone message sent by a Methuen High School student with disturbing verbiage. The student made terrorist threats...

The administration acted quickly, contacted school service officer Jim Mellor, who then contacted the police department. The student was not in school but has since been located and placed under arrest. Administration working hand in hand with the Methuen Police Department, diffused the situation maintaining the best possible professional attitude.
In other words, some teens at the high school saw a status update posted by D'Ambrosio and told someone... who told someone. The rest is now hysteria history.

The PD arrested the student, charged him with "communicating terrorist threats" and locked him up pending a "dangerousness" hearing. But was it really a threat? Or was it just D'Ambrosio doing what teens do best -- attracting negative attention? That ellipsis in the quotation from the PD's blog takes the place of a sentence which seems to indicate this entire chain of events should never have happened.
These threats were in general and not directed towards another person or the school.
Non-specific threats are a bit problematic. There generally needs to be more going on than a Facebook post that indiscriminately "threatens" everyone who's able to read it. If it was targeted at specific people, perhaps it would be a more credible threat. (D'Ambrosio can target his threats. According to the Boston Herald, he was charged last year with threatening to stab his sister to death, but the case has been dismissed. Read into that what you will...)

Then there's the wording itself that, when taken in context with D'Ambrosio's rap aspirations, tends to indicate this is simply poorly-worded braggadocio aimed at touting his "skills." The second "stanza" (?) even says "I’ma be famous rapping, and beat every murder charge that comes across me!" This makes the preceding line read more like "I'm going to be bigger than the Boston Bombing," not altogether unlike John Lennon's proclamation that the Beatles were bigger than Jesus. Again, rap is full of this sort of self-aggrandizement and D'Ambrosio certainly listened to enough of the music to pick up the basics.

The opening "stanza" starts with "I'm not in reality," another commonality of rap music. Eminem used this as a defense against criticism, stating that Eminem was an alter ego and was far more outrageous than he, Marshall Mathers, was. "It's all an act," in other words. Stating "I'm not in reality" up front should temper any expectations of literality in what follows it. Of course, this rationalizing grants D'Ambrosio additional depth that he may not actually possess. Even so, anyone with a passing knowledge of the art form would know enough to steal a little "depth."

Despite all this, the Methuen police chief seems rather proud of his catch. A rather breathless writeup at The Valley Patriot captures some rather ridiculous quotes from the man of the hour.
“He posted a threat in the form of rap where he mentioned the White House, the Boston Marathon bombing, and said ‘everybody you will see what I am going to do, kill people.”
If it was in the "form of a rap," there's a good chance this is protected speech, rather than a criminal act. Police chief Joe Solomon isn't helping his case by framing D'Ambrosio's words this way.
“I do want to make clear he did not make a specific threat against the school or any particular individuals but he did threaten to kill a bunch of people and specifically mentioned the Boston Marathon and the White House. The threat was disturbing enough for us to act and I think our officers did the right thing."
Strange. When I reread his words, I don't find him threatening to kill anyone. He says he'll "go insane" and make "the news, the paper, the (expletive) federal house of horror the White House." "Go insane" is not the same thing as threatening violence and its takes a lot of willingness to see something that's not actually there to believe it does. Sure, D'Ambrosio mentions both the White House and the Boston bombing, but simply throwing those words into a sentence (and filling the rest out with expletives) doesn't turn this into a credible threat, or at least not one that should result in a 20-year sentence.

By all means, the police should be willing to investigate perceived threats, but putting this into context (your average profane, overdramatic, attention-seeking, rap fan teenager) should have resulted in little more than a discussion about the possibility that word dumps like this could have negative consequences or legal repercussions.

The police also went to his home and seized D'Ambrosio's Xbox and laptop, but were apparently unable to find anything to indicate the teenager was anything more than a mouthy misanthrope. So, they've decided to "dig deeper into his Facebook account."

Tom Duggan, president and publisher of The Valley Patriot, dug a little deeper himself, and reported back (breathlessly) about the "horrors" he found. (All quotes are verbatim, I shit you not.)
D’Ambrosio also had disturbing photos and posts on his Facebook page including “Fuck politics, Fuck Obama and Fuck the government!!”

He also had a “disturbing satanic photo posted as well as a photo of himself on a “Wanted Poster” that reads “Wanted Dead or Alive” a quick perusal of his Facebook page shows D’Ambrosio’s unusual interest in gangs, violence and a criminal lifestyle.
Wow. It's like reading a report from Morality in Media. A teen who wants to stick it to the Man with f-bombs and exclamation points? Do tell! An "unusual" interest in gangs, violence and criminals? Does this make him more or less disturbing than a large majority of the teen population? Looking at his page, I notice D'Ambrosio also has an "unusual" interest in scantily-clad females, video games, Monsters University, puppies, "Fuck Drugs Enjoy Life," the National Guard, tattoos and Mario. And as for the whole "disturbing satanic photo" -- a.) Duggan is about 30 years too late to join the satanic panic, b.) the "photo" isn't actually a photo and c.) it's at least as comical as it is disturbing.

So, unless the police are holding some information back, it looks as if they've managed to turn a harmless bout of stupidity into a terrorist threat. Chief Solomon even credits the "see something, say something" travesty for helping the MPD corral this dangerous rapper. But while we're used to displays of immaturity from the young, there's no excusing the dangerous stupidity of zero tolerance policies, "see something, say something" and the police department's willingness to conjure up a threat out of little more than the use of "Boston" in a badly formed sentence.

Filed Under: massachusetts, terrorism

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  1. identicon
    Tom Duggan, 23 May 2013 @ 5:56pm

    Facts are Funny things......

    As the writer who "breathlessly" broke this story I am amused beyond giddiness to see how quickly the sheep just follow along a narrative no matter what the facts may show.
    Now, for the record I am a first amendment advocate who lectures on the topic quite frequently and when I first got word of this story my PERSONAL opinion was that charging this GUY (he is no kid) with terrorism was an affront to the friends I lost on 911.

    NOW.... having said that... let's take a look at the story you are criticizing, shall we?

    You ASSume when reading this straight news story that the writer was "breathlessly" trying to bias the readers of said story and that said bias was to paint Carmen D'Ambrosia in a bad light as to railroad an INNOCENT FLOWER with negative press.

    But..... since my PERSONAL opinion was (at the time)disgusted that he was being charged with "terrorism" ... and the FACTS of the story showed D'Ambrosio in a bad light... it was the FACTS that lead the story not any personal bias. If there was personal bias in this NEWS story it would have favored Cameron.

    But this does bring up an interesting point when dealing with people who like to recklessly attack others without knowing the true motives... or even bothering to ask.
    It seems from your criticism of my piece, that your beef is really centered around why I did NOT show my bias when writing the story .... since THAT bias is one you would AGREE with. This amuses me greatly.

    The satanic depiction on his Facebook page in and of itself means nothing. But when you take it in context with what he was being charged with, his bragging on facebook that he was going to "beat every murder charge", and saying his acts would be bigger than the Boston Marathon, previous threats,complaints by dozens of kids at Methuen High School that they felt he was a threat, and some rather DISTURBING previous posts (which we did NOT report) the satanic imagery BECOMES relevant.

    Now let's address another issue. FACTS
    It is rare today to find people interested in those pesky facts because most people want to fit a story to THEIR narrative not let the facts SHAPE their narrative.

    Tea Party conservatives are writing blog postings and emailing me saying D'Ambrosio was targeted for his "anti government posts". Several other blogs paint him out to be a goofy kid, who was just clowning around and is up against jack booted thug government cops looking to take away his rights.

    But the facts show differently.
    #1 He is not being charged under the patriot act or any FEDERAL charges at all. He is being charges under Massachusetts General Law Chapter 269, Section 14B. (Bomb Threats/Hijacking threats). Which is commonly referred to by Law Enforcement as a "terrorism statute" But does not elevate the criminal offense to the Federal level.
    #2 He has an arrest record and a probation record that shows him to be anything BUT a "goofy kid" or an innocent flower.The neighbors we spoke with ALL said that he was a violent kid with a really troubled home and every one of them said being in jail was better than what he had to go home to. EVERY ONE OF THEM. I did not include that in the story because I didn't think smearing the father was relevant to the story.
    #3 He was not charged because of anti-government rapping, he wasn't charged because the evil government conspired against him, he was charged because he sent TEXT messages where he threatened a mass murder (NOT RAP LYRICS) and he then posted similar threats on line. Hiding behind "They were rap lyrics" doesn't cut it in the real world. This isn't high school. I cannot post on line that I am going to go out and rape women and when I get caught get a free pass claiming they were lyrics to a song.
    #4 None of his threatening posts SAID they were rap lyrics. to those unfamiliar with Cameraon's aspiring rap career they looked more like the messages we saw from the columbine killers in their notebooks. These were not written in lyric form, and they didn't rhyme (though I agree not all rappers rhyme)
    #5 A LIBERAL MASSACHUSETTS JUDGE looked at the ACTUAL EVIDENCE in LAWRENCE district court (the poorest city in MA and the highest minority population with BY FAR the most liberal judges). She said she found his pattern of behavior (oddly missing in your criticism) "Very troubling". I have followed Judge Rooney... she is as liberal as they come!
    #6 Police that I spoke with, both the chief and officers involved said they had arrested him because they believed he was a threat and was escalating violent threats on line and in text messages, as well as verbally to students. At no time did ONE officer on or off the record cite anti government opinions as a motivating factor.

    Now it is up to a jury if it goes that far.
    Cameron D'Ambrosi is not a terrorist by any stretch. Deeming him a terrorist is an afront to every American who died at the hands of REAL terrorism.
    But he isn't a "goofy kid" or a victim of the evil government who is prosecuting him for a RAP song either. He is a VERY troubled kid with violence issues, a very troubled home life and the perfect profile of a mass shooter. His postings and his personal behavior landed him where he is. Not some jack booted government agent hell bent on taking people's free speech rights away.

    The story I wrote was an accurate depiction of the facts we had at the time. It was those FACTS that determined the direction of the story. I am sorry if they are inconvenient FACTS to those looking for a poster boy for their cause (a cause I actually agree with).

    Maybe in course of fighting monsters you have become one yourself. -boy

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