A Young Man's Violent Threat on Facebook Lands Him in Jail, and Limbo

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In April he wrote, "Suicide. Yea. Im thinking about it, wish I had bigger balls. Id fucking kill my self RIGHT NOW, but no im a pussy I hate my self [sic]." This was followed a day later with "kill self," which drew concern from his mother.

Jennifer Carter posted on her son's Facebook page, with unknowing prescience, "You really need to think about what you're posting, Justin, you have people worried about your safety..."

According to Flanary, a funny thing happened when Carter got a new lawyer and media coverage exploded.

Comal County prosecutors, who wanted Carter off the streets for eight years, offered ten years' probation, with Carter pleading guilty to the felony charge. Flanary says he was insulted.

"The fact is, the case should be dismissed," he says. "He didn't do anything wrong...That's what dictatorships all around the world used to do. They'd say, 'If you confess to your crimes against the state, we will let you go.' I mean, fuck you. I didn't do anything wrong...'Just admit you're a witch or we'll burn you. Why won't you just admit you're a witch?'"

Flanary is adamant that the case has been handled in just that way.

"The way that the criminal justice system is supposed to work and was envisioned by our founding fathers is: First you prove the crime, then you get the punishment," he says. "That's clearly how it's supposed to work. But now, in Justin's case, [it's] 'Let's do the punishment first and then we'll see if we can prove the crime later.' The damage has been done. And I suspect they know the damage has been done. I suspect that maybe one of the reasons they're holding on so hard is because they fear a lawsuit."

Flanary says that, as the father of two kids in elementary school, he understands why Austin police wanted to follow up on the tip from Canada. But, he says, police questioning should have revealed a somewhat dorky kid who wrote something dumb and offensive, not a kid bent on mass murder.

"If they're spending their time chasing around people like Justin Carter, I hope they're not missing the real dangers to society, the real school-shooters," Flanary says. "There's only a finite number of police, and if they're chasing around guys who are being mean on Facebook, where are the ones fighting crime?"

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Contributor Craig Malisow covers crooks, quacks, animal abusers, elected officials, and other assorted people for the Houston Press.
Contact: Craig Malisow