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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  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Mar 2018 @ 9:36am

    Right to a speedy trial...

    DENIED!

    And not even one mention of it TD. I guess you guys are not that biased at all are you?

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

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 1 Mar 2018 @ 9:50am

    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.

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

    • identicon
      Cowardly Lion, 1 Mar 2018 @ 10:43am

      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.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 1 Mar 2018 @ 11:59am

        Re: Re: That's one option

        thinking the US was all about "no cruel and unusual punishments".


        Government documents say stuff like that on paper, but words are cheap and meaningless in light of the standard fare corruption, bias and bigorty that we are routinely subjected to.

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

    • identicon
      nick, 14 May 2018 @ 2:27am

      Re: That's one option

      m-f this. every single piece of sh1t wasting my tax dollars prosecuting someone's facebook joke post should be BARRED from practicing law and PROSECUTED. worthless pieces of shit.

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

  • identicon
    Fat Man & Ribbon, 1 Mar 2018 @ 9:51am

    Interesting how they nab the joker while ignoring the mass murderer.

    Almost every time there is a mass shooting, authorities claim they were aware of the individual .... but did nothing. Why is this acceptable behavior?

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

    • identicon
      Machin Shin, 1 Mar 2018 @ 10:09am

      Re:

      Maybe it was all part of the plan. Keep him on ice till now when your likely to find a more agreeable jury.

      The really sad thing is.... over the last few years I have lost enough faith in our government for me to find that idea halfway believable.

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

  • identicon
    Yes, I know I'm commenting anonymously, 1 Mar 2018 @ 10:05am

    Or, those prosecutors are such terrible losers they cannot face the reality of being responsible for failing to `secure' (a signal word indicating blind prejudice) a conviction.

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

  • icon
    Ryunosuke (profile), 1 Mar 2018 @ 10:20am

    I am pretty sure the prosecutor in this case will be bankrupt by the end of it all. I mean, that's what I'd do.

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

    • identicon
      spodula, 2 Mar 2018 @ 1:20am

      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.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Mar 2018 @ 10:24am

    You mean "push forward." "Push back" means it would occur sooner. People were I work mix them up all the time. "The meeting's been pushed back!" Um. not it hasn't.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 1 Mar 2018 @ 10:26am

      Re:

      You are incorrect.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 1 Mar 2018 @ 10:27am

      Re:

      The dictionary disagrees with you.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 1 Mar 2018 @ 10:28am

      Re:

      Pushed back (away from the current date). As the other AC said: You are wrong.

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

    • identicon
      SirWired, 1 Mar 2018 @ 10:32am

      You have it backwards

      Perhaps if lots of people around you "get it wrong", it's you that has it backwards?

      Making the date sooner would be "bumped up" or "pulled forward".

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 1 Mar 2018 @ 11:52am

        Re: You have it backwards

        Could also be pushed forward instead of pulled forward. I wouldn't use it that way but it would fit. Just makes more sense if you use pushback in your vocab then you would use pull forward for the opposite. But that is what makes sense to me in our language of glorious chaos.

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

    • identicon
      Cowardly Lion, 1 Mar 2018 @ 10:47am

      Re:

      https://xkcd.com/1576/

      Also, I'm going to keep schtum on your use of "were". Oh, wait...

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 1 Mar 2018 @ 11:45am

      Re:

      You must miss a lot of meetings. I think your coworkers do this on purpose.

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

    • icon
      The Wanderer (profile), 5 Mar 2018 @ 8:34am

      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.

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

      • icon
        The Wanderer (profile), 5 Mar 2018 @ 8:35am

        Re: Re:

        ...that said, "push back" does carry the additional implication that it's being moved farther from the current time, just as "pull forward" carries the implication that it's being moved closer, so the phrase as used was clear enough in this instance.

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

  • icon
    Roger Strong (profile), 1 Mar 2018 @ 10:54am

    Abu Ghraib torturer Rick Saccone is now the GOP nominee in Pennsylvania’s 18th congressional district. Backed by the President too. And he's leading the polls.

    Now I wonder whether he'd have been prosecuted if he'd merely joked about committing war crimes.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 1 Mar 2018 @ 12:05pm

      Re:

      He is a proponent of enhanced interrogation, aka torture, so I wonder what are his thoughts about the media asking questions he would rather not be asked in public.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Mar 2018 @ 11:06am

    I really wish posts like this would name and shame the prosecutors involved.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Mar 2018 @ 11:13am

    Why is a government of the people so intent on jailing people for any reason whatsoever?

    We should put the kids in prison like barbed wire fenced schools to protect them from the kids in prison with barbed wire fences.

    ALL of them need to learn Obedience to the state, for their own protection.

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

  • icon
    MinchinWeb (profile), 1 Mar 2018 @ 12:00pm

    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"...

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

    • identicon
      Valkor, 1 Mar 2018 @ 12:33pm

      Re: Right to a Speedy Trial

      Startling, yes, but also very healthy.

      Defending the rights of the accused is important, because it protects the innocent even more than the guilty.

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

  • icon
    Coyne Tibbets (profile), 1 Mar 2018 @ 1:32pm

    There isn't, but there is

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

    ...even as he continues the case to May 14.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Mar 2018 @ 3:03pm

    What happened to the right to a speedy trial?

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

    • identicon
      Wendy Cockcroft, 2 Mar 2018 @ 5:30am

      Re:

      That got flushed with the Fourth Amendment.

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

    • icon
      Coyne Tibbets (profile), 3 Mar 2018 @ 5:23pm

      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.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Mar 2018 @ 3:13pm

    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.

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

    • identicon
      nick, 14 May 2018 @ 2:33am

      Re: The "Justice" system has a serious problem.

      this is serious legal abuse. what the fuck is the point of the 1st amendment? what country is this?

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

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 1 Mar 2018 @ 5:54pm

    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.

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

  • identicon
    spodula, 2 Mar 2018 @ 1:24am

    And it would have worked

    Except for that pesky anonymous bail donation to get him out of there before he broke...

    As for the lawsuit, while this *may* happen against the state, the prosecuters wont he held personally responsible and will just write it off and continue abusing their office in this manner.

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

    • identicon
      anonymous, 5 Apr 2018 @ 6:06pm

      Re: And it would have worked

      It was meant as an f.u. to the DA and Judge.

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

    • identicon
      nick, 14 May 2018 @ 2:36am

      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?

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

  • icon
    Avatar28 (profile), 2 Mar 2018 @ 6:27am

    Constitution

    Isn't there something in the constitution about the right to a speedy trial? In what universe can FIVE YEARS be considered a speedy trial? One would think they could get it dismissed on those grounds alone.

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

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 2 Mar 2018 @ 4:06pm

      Re: Constitution

      The same universe where you have politicians arguing with a straight face that anything less that a literal eternal duration qualifies as 'limited time' with regards to copyright.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Mar 2018 @ 10:54am

    Unfortunately, trial is before a judge who has a certain amount of difficulty following the law.

    https://www.statesman.com/news/crime--law/texas-judge-interrupts-jury-says-god-told-him-defendan t-not-guilty/ZRdGbT7xPu7lc6kMMPeWKL/

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

  • identicon
    stk33, 30 Mar 2018 @ 7:36am

    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.

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

  • identicon
    sam style, 29 Apr 2018 @ 12:56pm

    listen, you can't be stupid online

    justin, it's too late for him.

    people have to be careful how they word everything.

    this is not a new problem.

    people have been persecuted before, long before.

    parents got to learn their children these things, come on already!

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

    • identicon
      nick, 14 May 2018 @ 2:39am

      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?

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


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