Justin Carter, Zero Tolerance and Social Media

19 year old Justin Carter of Austin Texas has been in jail since March 27th, and he is awaiting a July 16th court date. If you haven’t heard the story, you’re probably thinking he did something really bad. Nope.

league of legendsHe is in jail because of an offhand Facebook comment, one that in my opinion even the most obtuse of observers would conclude was a joke. Justin was arguing on Facebook about the online game “League of Legends”. When Justin’s opponent taunted him (the specific words are not available – no doubt deleted by the other user), Justin replied with the following:

“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.”
“LOL”

“J/K”

 

LOL means “laugh out loud”, a clear indication that he was joking. J/K means “just kidding”, an even clearer indication that he was joking.

I would love to know what is going through the prosecutor’s head. Bond has been set at a whopping $500,000, and Justin could serve 8 years in prison if convicted. A number of articles I’ve read attribute the heightened sensitivity to the fact that the incident happened just months after the Newton, CT school tragedy, but that doesn’t seem to tell the whole story.

It’s hard to believe that a prosecutor couldn’t tell that this was a joke, but maybe he has an agenda that I’m not aware of. Even if you don’t think it was a funny comment, or was in bad taste, I don’t see how jail time is the right outcome. Hopefully the judge will throw this case out and our best wishes go out to Justin and the Carter family.

If you have teenage kids, it’s probably a good idea to make this a dinner table topic of discussion, especially if there’s even a remote possibility of zero tolerance becoming the new standard for internet and social media communications.

 

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