Students Make A Video Depicting A School Shooting; Sheriff Decides Everyone Needs To Have Their Rights Violated

from the if-he's-lucky,-he'll-only-face-one-lawsuit dept

Heightened sensitivities and a law enforcement track record of overreaction has prompted a New York Sheriff's Office into actions that will probably result in at least one civil rights lawsuit. When students of a New York school decided to create a couple of videos and post them to Instagram, the Sheriff felt compelled to violate the students' Fourth Amendment rights after disregarding their First Amendment rights.

Three students face felony charges of making a terroristic threat for posting online two brief videos where they act out a school shooting in someone’s house.

[...]

The Albany County Sheriff’s Office said the videos were made by Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk students aged 10, 14 and 15 and posted to Instagram. They show a student with a fake gun barging into a living room and “shooting” two other students. In one video, students, who are all white, use a racial epithet.

Sheriff Craig Apple called the videos “very graphic, very racist and horrifying.”

Lots of movies, books, TV shows, and videogames contain "graphic and horrifying" content. Some even include "racist" dialogue, just as this video did. At no point did any of the participants mention a school, mention an intent to perform these acts at a school, or even tag other students/schools in the posting. It was simply a dramatization of events that happen far too often in this country.

The videos were noticed by a student of the school the three arrested students attended. No one's faulting the school for handing over the videos to law enforcement, but the sheriff's office should have recognized the students were engaging in protected speech, not issuing terroristic threats. A simple conversation about why the videos might be disturbing to others should have been the end of it. Instead, there are now three arrests and a bunch of civil rights lawyers pointing out exactly why these arrests should not have occurred.

Manhattan civil rights lawyer and television commentator Ron Kube said the videos don’t rise to the level of terroristic threat because there was no specific target or agenda. “This appears to be a wild overreaction driven by the legitimate concerns about school shootings,” Kube said Monday.

Civil rights lawyer Normal Siegel, former executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, also said there was no terroristic threat and that the videos appeared to be an attempt at acting.

“The arrests raise serious and substantial First Amendment concerns,” said Siegel. “Making a video is protected by the First Amendment.”

Content disturbing to others is present in a lot of content. Just because this dramatization happened to be produced by students and distributed by Instagram doesn't somehow entitle it to less First Amendment protection than a motion picture released by a major studio. Just because the participants happened to be school students doesn't mean their speech is less protected than someone with a multi-million dollar budget.

Sheriff Craig Apple's speech -- as moronic as it is -- is also protected by the same First Amendment he won't extend to these students.

There’s been enough shootings going on around the country. This is despicable artistic expression, if that’s what it was.”

Sheriff Apple is free to hate the expressive speech. But he's not free to arrest people for speech he doesn't like. And all the "but what if a shooting actually happened?" excuses don't make this any less of a compound civil rights violation.

Filed Under: 1st amendment, 4th amendment, albany, craig apple, overreaction, police, school shootings, videos


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Dec 2018 @ 3:55pm

    Sounds like a distribution of wealth scheme

    This seems to just be content creators being targeted by trigger-happy law enforcement. The fact that they were arrested seems to argue that the sheriff department has excess funds that they wish to disperse to the youths involved. If the local prosecutors would like to explain this all to the sheriff, it might prevent future such acts.

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

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Dec 2018 @ 4:04pm

    Anybody dumb enough to post a video of school shooting, real or fake, risk being SWATed with real bullets and dead idiots.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 28 Dec 2018 @ 4:13pm

      Re: risks*

      That’s what your going with eh? Well we at least know where to get the live idiot.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 28 Dec 2018 @ 4:19pm

      Re:

      Anyone dumb enough to SWAT somebody risks being charged with murder in some fashion, or didn't you hear about the guy who's going to jail because his SWATting of somebody got them killed?

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 28 Dec 2018 @ 5:41pm

      Re:

      hmmm This sounds kinda like a novel version of (a video of) a school shooting. especially if said bullets happen at a school because the students are in school at the time, and 3rd parties get hit.
      maybe the OP think's he's gonna get SWATed now? (which in my humble opinion would be a stupid horrible thing to occur, but ...)

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 29 Dec 2018 @ 12:55pm

      Re:

      Then who would be the real idiot? The one that posted the video or the one that went too far an abused their authority?

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 2 Jan 2019 @ 6:05am

      Re:

      You should read the article before you comment. There was no video of a school shooting.

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

    • icon
      Bergman (profile), 5 Jan 2019 @ 7:18pm

      Re:

      Problem one: they didn't post a video of a school shooting.

      Problem two: MSNBC, CNN and Fox have all posted videos of shootings, yet no one (except you) is insisting their offices should be raided by armed police and that all the people inside be murdered by the police.

      Problem three: Quite a few movie production studios have posted videos of shootings -- I'd imagine you've gone to see at least one at a movie theater at some point in your life. Are you seriously claiming that those studios should be shot up by police?!?

      Your argument fails on every possible level.

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

  • icon
    JoeCool (profile), 28 Dec 2018 @ 4:29pm

    Huh?

    “There’s been enough shootings going on around the country. This is despicable artistic expression, if that’s what it was.”

    Somebody better let Hollywood know. :D

    Damn, I'd hate to be a kid caught playing Cowboys and Indians these days - you'd be prosecuted for a hate crime! Better stick with one that never goes out of fashion - Allies verses Nazis. ;)

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

    • icon
      Killercool (profile), 28 Dec 2018 @ 5:58pm

      Re: Huh?

      Eh, I'd be careful about that, too. Nazis being depicted as "bad guys" is very unpopular with a vocal minority, right now.

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

      • icon
        That One Guy (profile), 28 Dec 2018 @ 10:08pm

        'Ridiculous ideas are by definition deserving of ridicule'

        Sounds like a perfect group to mock in that case, as watching/listening to someone defend gorram nazis would be all sorts of funny and telling.

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

        • icon
          Killercool (profile), 28 Dec 2018 @ 11:31pm

          Re: 'Ridiculous ideas are by definition deserving of ridicule'

          It's very funny for the first few hours, then it's less funny for a few hours, then it's tiresome for a few hours, then confusing for a few hours, then horrifying/outraging for a few hours, then you just feel hollow.

          Because they've been serious the whole time.

          And that's when you get off the internet for a few days, if not longer.

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

  • identicon
    Pixelation, 28 Dec 2018 @ 5:47pm

    This is something that would have been handled better with counseling. Instead, we get Mr. Overreaction. He could use some counseling as well.

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

  • identicon
    Saratoga, 28 Dec 2018 @ 6:04pm

    Sheriff had help

    lll


    ... this arrest happened 2 weeks ago --so there's been plenty of time for the local prosecutors & county to review the case and drop the charges. An arraignment before a judge is normally required within 48 hours.

    If the charges were not immediately dismissed, then Sheriff Apple's false charges were rubber-stamped by the County legal experts (prosecutor & judge). If so, there's a much bigger criminal conspiracy in that county.

    Of course, no government official suffer any personal consequences. if they lose the civil lawsuits, taxpayers will pay the settlement $$.

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

    • icon
      Killercool (profile), 28 Dec 2018 @ 6:16pm

      Re: Sheriff had help

      Well, that depends on whether the families of the harassed children want justice, or just money. It is possible to sue the Sheriff personally, and it may be possible to press suit against the involved prosecutors and judge.

      That second group probably won't go very well, since they could (maybe even reasonably) claim that they were just going on the officer's testimony, in which case they might be immune.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 28 Dec 2018 @ 6:43pm

        Re: Re: Sheriff had help

        ...qualified immunity ?

        prosecutors/judge had easy direct access to all the evidence -- the video.
        no need to rely upon police statements

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

        • icon
          Killercool (profile), 28 Dec 2018 @ 7:01pm

          Re: Re: Re: Sheriff had help

          No, more along the lines of "judicial immunity." There are laws that some government officials, when acting within certain boundaries and their official capacity, are not subject to civil suit. There are limits to this, of course, but unlike the Sheriff, who knowingly violated the First and Fourth Amendments, their rubber-stamping is only unethical, not illegal.

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

          • icon
            Bamboo Harvester (profile), 29 Dec 2018 @ 2:41am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Sheriff had help

            It depends on if the action was misfeasance (arguable screwup) or malfeasance (intentional screwup).

            Courts generally accept the misfeasance claim and allow qualified immunity.

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

            • identicon
              Steve, 29 Dec 2018 @ 1:08pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Sheriff had help

              That depends on if there is well established law concerning the rights that were violated. I.E. if there was a ruling already in a court that governs that jurisdiction.

              Police are still liable for a rights violations that may be reasonable in the moment if case law has already ruled against their actions in the same situation. The first case the officer would still be eligible for QI, but no subsequent cases. Even if it were to be ruled misfeasance.

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

          • icon
            Igualmente69 (profile), 29 Dec 2018 @ 3:53pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Sheriff had help

            Actually there aren't limits for judges. They cannot be sued for judicial actions under any situation, ever. If they were proven to have broken laws, they could be charged with a crime, but not sued by anyone. And it has to be shown conclusively that a prosecutor had no possible basis for the charges, no matter how flimsy, and acted with deliberate malice, in order to sue them, which is nearly impossible.

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

            • icon
              Killercool (profile), 29 Dec 2018 @ 5:36pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Sheriff had help

              Well, according to the Civil Rights Act of 1871, ALL members of the government are liable for actions that violate civil rights "under color of state law." The Supreme Court agrees, as in Pullman v. Allen, 1984, they ruled that that judges can be sued for injunctive relief, and be required to pay lawyers fee if they lose. It's not much, but it should prevent this judge from doing it again, and might keep the family from going broke pursuing it.

              Like I said before, the kids' families' future track depends on whether they want justice, or just cash.

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

              • identicon
                Anonymous Coward, 30 Dec 2018 @ 6:18am

                Re: Re: Sheriff had help

                ... how wonderful that American laws are so crystal clear to everybody

                imagine the chaos if the laws were so numerous, contradictory and confusing ... that not even professional attorneys and court judges could agree on the meaning and application of laws.

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

            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 30 Dec 2018 @ 7:44am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Sheriff had help

              "cannot be sued for judicial actions under any situation, ever."

              May I suggest a course on US history? Or maybe just a book would be enough, do you read books?

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Dec 2018 @ 9:10pm

    A simple conversation about why the videos might be disturbing to others should have been the end of it.

    Right. The conversation would have gone like this:

    Sheriff: A lot of kids are afraid of school shootings, including those you go to school with. Take it down.

    Kids: We know all that about kids being afraid of school shootings. We're afraid too. [Translated: we wanted to start a conversation / we wanted to troll people [Translated: we wanted attention] ] We're leaving it up.

    Sheriff: You're under arrest for causing a disturbance. [Translated: contempt of cop]

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

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 28 Dec 2018 @ 10:04pm

    Not one to be talking

    “There’s been enough shootings going on around the country. This is despicable artistic expression, if that’s what it was.”

    Yes, how dare they exercise their constitutional right to free speech to post something someone might find offensive? Don't they know freedom of speech is only there to enable, protect and apply to nice, happy stuff?

    Personally I find his abuse of power in arresting kids for exercising their free speech to be far more 'despicable' than said free speech, if for no other reason than a single video is a hell of a lot less harmful than some thin-skinned idiot with a badge violating rights because his sensibilities were hurt.

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

    • icon
      Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 29 Dec 2018 @ 7:03am

      Re: Not one to be talking

      "...because his sensibilities were hurt."

      Or perhaps his sensibilities were programmed, as in 'I'll teach these kids how to be controlled!', which fits the ideology of those who consider their points of view superior to everyone else's, and damned the Constitution, full speed ahead.

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

    • identicon
      curtis8, 29 Dec 2018 @ 7:04am

      Re: idiot with a badge

      .

      ...that "thin-skinned idiot with a badge" is more precisely a 'thin-skinned idiot with a badge and a GUN' (and clubs, MACE, Tasers and shackles).

      Giving people badges & guns and wide discretionary authority to use them against the general public ... is a very dangerous pursuit. Plenty of dangerous people freely walk our streets with official badges & guns.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Dec 2018 @ 8:46am

    Despicable

    "There’s been enough shootings going on around the country. This is despicable artistic expression, if that’s what it was."
    - Sheriff Craig Apple

    There’s been enough violation of civil rights going on around the country. This is despicable law enforcement, if that’s what it was.
    - Everybody Else

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Dec 2018 @ 10:10am

    Those kids will win enough money to stage a BIGGER movie. and probably collect MORE money when the dumbass law enforcement considers that a danger too.

    I wonder if this sheriff Craig Apple thinks Guardians of the Galaxy 2 is a documentary about actual alien terrorism?

    He's probably put in requests for Iron Man armor suits and two Hulk deputies already.

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

  • icon
    jimb (profile), 1 Jan 2019 @ 7:05pm

    sheriff is a 'Tillerson' moron

    So how does this sheriff feel about gun control? All this hyper-sensitivity about school shootings, but our 'leaders' are willing to do nothing about the root of the problem: too many guns in too many places.

    Maybe the only "solution" for gun control is to give in to the NRA. We all go around armed, all the time, and everywhere. We shoot if we think we see a 'bad guy with a gun' because we're all 'good guys with guns', aren't we. Too bad about any 'collateral damage'. In a few months, the people who survive will probably be so sick of the constant fearfulness, the constant ducking that we can get some really useful gun control enacted. Meanwhile, I suppose we can keep arresting kids for making videos. Maybe if they'd worn cowboy hats, and said "fu**ing injuns" instead of whatever other racist epithet they used, the sheriff would have chuckled and gone back to his Fox "News" show.

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

  • identicon
    V, 3 Jan 2019 @ 1:54pm

    Traumatic Processing

    "Ring Around the Rosie" is a long historic response to a traumatic event. It doesn't surprise me that children would respond to school shootings by including them in their dramatic play. The kids know exactly how disturbing the videos are as they too are terrified. This is just part of their processing of emotional material.

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


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