Justin Carter’s Attorneys Contend Facebook Threat Was Misconstrued
For more detail and background on this story, read Game Front’s complete coverage of the Justin Carter case.
Justin Carter’s defense is focusing its attention on the actions of Texas police as it prepares for a pretrial hearing on Sept. 23.
Motions filed by defense attorneys Donald Flanary and Chad Van Brunt call into question a number of police actions following Carter’s arrest in February, after he was accused of threatening on Facebook to “shoot up a kindergarten”. The League of Legends player was then held for months, both in Austin, Texas’ Travis County and later in Comal County, Texas. He finally made bail on June 11 after an anonymous donor gave Carter and his family the $500,000 needed to get him out of jail.
Documents provided to Game Front by Flanary and included in the defense motions cast more light on the actual timeline of events following Carter’s arrest, and show an emphasis placed on working to get the case dismissed during the pretrial hearing later this month.
According to the documents, an arrest warrant was issued in February in Travis County after the Austin Regional Intelligence Center, a police organization, received an anonymous tip from the Canadian Crime Stopper Association. The tip, sent by a Canadian national, includes a screenshot of the Facebook exchange in which Carter allegedly made the threat on Feb. 13.
From there, documents filed as part of the motion make things a bit clearer than they were earlier this summer. Carter was arrested on Feb. 14 and lodged in the Travis County Jail with a bail of $250,000. In the arrest warrant, police state they identified Carter using a link to his Facebook profile provided by the tipster, then compared a photo of Carter on his Facebook page to a Texas driver license for Justin River Carter. Finding a match, they say they gathered Carter’s address from records and arrested him.
However, Flanary contends in one motion that Carter has no Texas driver license, and thus police couldn’t have used it to identify him. How police located Carter and under what jurisdiction he would fall into is also a point of contention: though he was arrested in Travis County, where Carter worked at the time, he actually lived in Comal County, and the Facebook post was allegedly made in the latter. The defense alleges that Austin police couldn’t have known where Carter was when he made the post, or whose jurisdiction under which the alleged threat would fall.
Carter was later bound over to Comal County. That transfer didn’t happen until March, however, and came with a bail that was doubled to $500,000 — an amount Flanary alleged was unreasonable for the crime and far beyond the means of Carter and his family to pay.
The defense’s motions also take issue with other official elements of Carter’s arrest. One cites language on Carter’s indictment in Comal County, which seems to misquote what he actually posted on Facebook. In the screenshot of the Facebook post, Carter allegedly wrote, “I’m f–ked in the head alright, I think I’ma SHOOT UP A KINDERGARTEN / AND WATCH THE BLOOD OF THE INNOCENT RAIN DOWN / AND EAT THE BEATING HEART OF ONE OF THEM (emphasis original).”
However, according to the motions, the indictment quotes the post as saying Carter threatened to “shoot up a kindergarten, watch the blood rain down and eat the beating heart out of one of them,” which the defense alleges misconstrued Carter’s meaning in order to make the statement read more like a threat, and less like satire, as the defense claims it was. The defense also alleges that police failed to include the fact that Carter was responding to other Facebook users’ verbal attacks in the thread when it presented the information to the grand jury, which issued Carter’s indictment.
It also seems that New Braunfels police (the force from Comal County, where Carter actually lives) interviewed Carter while he was still in the Travis County jail, which Flanary said is when police decided he was being held in the wrong jurisdiction. That violated Carter’s Sixth Amendment rights, the defense claims, because Carter had the right to have an attorney present during the interview.
Game Front attempted to contact the Travis County District Attorney, but requests for comment on the case and the allegations of the defense were not returned. The Comal County District Attorney has refused to comment on the case as well.
Carter’s next court date is Sept. 23, when a judge will likely rule on the defense’s motions. Depending on the outcome of that hearing, it’s likely a court date will finally be set.