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Texas Teen Jailed For Sandy Hook-Related Facebook Comments Still Faces Charges

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A Texas teenager who posted a seemingly sarcastic comment on Facebook after the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School is still stuck in legal limbo, the Dallas Observer reports. 

The teen, 18-year-old Justin Carter, was involved in a comment thread on the social media site when he posted the following message: “I’m f----- in the head alright, I think I’ma SHOOT UP A KINDERGARTEN.” In context, the comment may have had something to do with a relatively innocuous argument about the video game League of Legends, Reason reports. Without the context, the commenter quickly found himself entangled in a bureaucratic battle of 21st-century Kafkaesque proportions.

An individual from Canada who was following the thread ended up taking a screenshot from his or her cell phone before forwarding the photo to the local law enforcement agency. The Canadian police force subsequently forwarded the photograph to a law enforcement agency in Texas, who found that Carter lived within 100 yards of an elementary school. 

Federal law enforcement officers quickly charged Carter with third-degree terrorism and arrested him while he was working at the drapery shop where he had been employed. He was held for four months in jail on a $500,000 bail. 

Don Flanary, Carter’s attorney, claims that prosecutors failed to read the entire thread on the site prior to convicting him. He also claims that Carter displayed no true malicious intent, and that his client’s comments should not be considered as a terrorist threat. 

“When you’re dealing with speech ... it is absolutely, 100 percent important that the words that you are charging people with are actually the words that they said and not some misrepresentation,” Flanary said.

Carter’s case is an interesting example of the legal implications of content posted on Facebook. The social media site has been used in several First Amendment cases — such as the one in which judges ruled that the “like” button constitutes free speech — but it has also been used as evidence to convict criminal suspects. 

Despite being released on bail by an anonymous donor, Carter still faces charges. 

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