Last February 14th, 18 year old Justin River Carter made a comment during an argument with a few acquaintances on Facebook that would shock most people, but I doubt that many people would take his hyperbole seriously enough to feel threatened:
“I think I’ma [sic] shoot up a kindergarten and watch the blood of the innocent run down and eat the beating heart of one of them.”
The truly shocking and frightening thing to me, though, was the reaction of my own local law enforcement officials, including one who told San Antonio WOAI radio that it was necessary to arrest and hold Carter for months, so there wouldn’t “be questions about why more was not done to stop him.”
I want to know why more was not done to protect Carter from abuse by New Braunfels and Comal County law enforcement community. No “LOL” No “JK”
The actual conversation that caused Justin Carter to be arrested no longer exists on the Internet, according to Facebook. The only “evidence” is a screen shot clip picture of the comment taken by the person who called the Austin Police Department’s Crime Stoppers, incorrectly stating that Carter lived near a school in that City. Based on that anonymous tip, Austin PD had US Marshals to arrest Carter at his job in San Antonio and transferred him from Bexar County to their jail on February 14, 2013.
A problem – for the Austin police — developed when they eventually discovered that Carter lives in New Braunfels, not Austin. I don’t know how they found out where he worked, but couldn’t verify his address until after the arrest.
One month after his arrest, and still without a court hearing, a search of Carter’s home, or any evidence that Carter owned a gun or had made any violent plans, APD invited the New Braunfels police to drive to Austin to interview Carter in their jail. He spoke to them without his lawyer, because he foolishly thought that he would be able to clear up the confusion if he explained the comment.
This was a huge mistake.
Someone at the NBPD decided to file his own complaint with Comal County Criminal District Attorney Jennifer Tharp, who convinced a Grand Jury to indict Carter for a third degree felony charge of making “terroristic threats.” (Read the Statute here.)
District Judge Jack Robison doubled the bail from the $250,000 set in Austin to half a million dollars.
Sometime later, Carter was moved from Travis County to Comal County, where he remained in Comal County jails from late March until July 10th, when an anonymous donor posted bond on his behalf.
I’ve been told that the DA makes it a habit to charge the maximum possible and then offer “plea bargains” that are no bargain, at all. As long as the innocent-until-proven-guilty won’t admit guilt, the hearings and procedures can drag out for years before an actual trial. As to that ridiculous bail amount, it seems that it’s routine for judges automatically double the bail anytime someone is indicted, regardless of the amount of bail in place before.
Carter, as is customary, was placed in the same jail with convicted criminals in both Austin and New Braunfels. He suffered injuries due to abuse by other inmates and his father reported that he was transferred to different jail facilities several times and was kept in solitary confinement and nude, on suicide watch, for many days.
On December 12, 2013, Judge Robison announced his decision not to drop the indictment. The next hearing on the case is scheduled for January 28, 2014.
A more complete review of the history of this case through July, 2013, is here. You can read Carter’s mother’s version of the story and intermittent updates, here.
Just don’t get arrested for anything in New Braunfels. And don’t talk to our police without a lawyer, if you are.