Every time I look at this young man’s photo, my heart breaks apart for him and his family:
Cameron D’Ambrosio should not be in handcuffs. He should not be in a court room. He should not have been arrested, and he damn well sure should not have been accused of Communicating a Terrorist Threat, or threatened with 20 years in prison for making what amounts to poor word choices.
This entire case is shot through with injustice:
Before charges were even formally filed, local newspapers were already posting pictures from Cam’s facebook and pointing to “disturbing” posts like “Fuck politics. Fuck Obama. Fuck the government!” and “satanic” imagery (like some image from a metal band’s poster.) All of this is free speech that is 100% protected by the 1st Amendment.
And then there’s this:
Fox News went so far as to say that Cam’s facebook profile had images that they “couldn’t show on TV.” They and other media outlets frequently and intentionally printed only a small section of the lyrics that Cam was arrested for allegedly writing, and took them out of context to make rap metaphors sound like a real threat.
The media printed:
“(Expletive) a boston bominb wait till u see the (expletive) I do, I’ma be famous”
The actual line is:
“(Expletive) a boston bominb wait till u see the (expletive) I do, I’ma be famous rapping”
Notice something? The context completely changes the meaning of the line. Suddenly something that sounds like a threat of violence is clearly just bragging about how good Cammy Dee is going to be in the rap game. Last we checked, teenage dreams of grandeur were not a crime.
Such omissions are scandalous. You can see one example here (they also incorrectly stated that Cameron pleaded “guilty.” He pled “not guilty.”). The source above also reported that Cameron was arrested on a previous assault and battery charge, but neglected to mention that those charges were later dismissed.
This case involves a number of horrifying breaches of journalistic ethics, paired with a complete, utter failure to exercise prosecutorial discretion. A young 18-year old man with his whole life ahead of him may spend the next 20 years of his life in prison for doing nothing more than posting uncouth status updates on his Facebook page. As Rob D’Ovidio, a criminal justice professor at Drexel University, said recently:
When I was young, calling a bomb threat to your high school because you didn’t want to go to school that day was treated with a slap on the wrist. Try that nowadays and you’re going to prison, no question about it. They are taking it more seriously now[.]
And then there’s this gem from the local police chief:
“There are no more threats that are high school pranks,” said Joseph Solomon, police chief, during a press conference Thursday afternoon. “If they’re thinking that way, they need to get their heads into 2013.”
This is the incarceration nation in motion. The fear of legitimate threats is used to extend the scope of punitive executive scrutiny to cases that otherwise would’ve been dealt with outside the criminal justice system. Stupid mistakes and ill-timed remarks become serious felonies with decades in prison as the penalty.
Cases like this highlight the need for people to push back against the overcriminalization of America. We need to stop sending our kids to prison for dumb mistakes. We need to stop traumatizing 18-year olds by making them do the perp walk, and then telling them they’re facing 20 years in prison for being oafish online. None of this is necessary. All of it is unjust, improper, and counterproductive.
Q. re: Ambrosia: “D’Ambrosio has a history of making violent threats, once to his sister and once to a pair of eighth graders. Police responded to an incident in 2006, during which a woman said D’Ambrosio bit her son. In September, another student severely beat D’Ambrosio and put him in the hospital. Police Chief Joseph Solomon said the altercation started with a Facebook post by D’Ambrosio about the student’s girlfriend.” — guyatree
A. Ok, so he bit someone, made threats, and got beat up for being a jerk on Facebook. In civilized societies, we don’t punish people for made-up crimes because we don’t like them or their past antics.
The issue at hand isn’t whether or not this is an unsavory individual — that question seems very settled already.
The issue at hand is that it’s a huge violation of the First Amendment to jail a kid for terrorism because he tactlessly wrote on Facebook that his coming rap career would receive more media coverage than the Boston bombing. Free speech is a right held even by jerks.
(Note: This question and my answer references this story. D’Ambrosia is the kid in jail.)
Rebloggable by request.
LTMC: There’s also a question of what, if any crime he actually committed.Even if we assumed that he did commit a crime, simply mentioning the Boston bombing in a sentence is not tantamount to Communicating a Terrorist Threat. Making verbal threats in the past is not the same as Communicating a Terrorist Threat. Biting someone is not the same as Communicating a Terrorist threat. Talking shit about someone’s girlfriend on facebook is not the same as Communicating a Terrorist threat. There is a reason why those types of prior bad acts generally get excluded from evidence in court.
When you look at the context of D’Ambrosio’s facebook post, it’s clear to any reasonable person that he wasn’t mentioning the Boston bombing as an analogy for future acts he intended to commit. He’s referring to the size of the media coverage surrounding the bombings, and saying that his rap career would garner even more media coverage than the Boston bombings.
Was this insensitive? Perhaps. But that’s completely irrelevant to the legal analysis of his actions. Think about how many “insensitive” 9/11 jokes were made on the internet after the Twin Towers collapsed. Was the person who made this series of pictures guilty of Communicating a Terrorist Threat?
Or even better, how about this person?
And what about Adam Kokesh, the organizer of the open-carry gun march on D.C., who infamously tweeted that “When the government comes to take your guns, you can shoot government agents, or submit to slavery.” Isn’t that closer to Communicating a Terrorist Threat than saying that your rap career will garner more media coverage than the Boston bombing? (Kokesh was later arrested, but not for this tweet).
This is a perfect demonstration of Harvey Silverglate’s thesis in Three Felonies a Day: How the Feds Target the Innocent. Federal law enforcement officials transmute innocent conduct into criminal activity by stringing together unrelated statements and occurrences, and then presenting them to judges and juries as if they’re meaningful. D’Ambrosio’s statement had nothing to do with terrorism, and everything to do with media coverage. He’s guilty of nothing more than using a poor comparison. But the only reason it’s poor in the first place is because of the risk that overzealous federal authorities might misinterpret his remarks. The wrongful act here is not D’Ambrosio’s statement, but the overzealous enforcement of a misguided federal law.
— David Feige, Indefensible: One Lawyer’s Journey into the Inferno of American Justice, pg. 53–54,
Seriously, conservatives need to wake up and realize that Benghazi just isn’t the scandal they so desperately want it to be. …[E]ven if there was some remote possibility that conservatives could have stoked outrage in moderates and independents over Benghazi, that ship has long since sailed and sunk. The only thing that could make Benghazi more useless as national election fodder would be if Republicans were caught falsifying the contents of easily verifiable administration emails in order to score conservative media ratings.
Oh wait, that’s exactly what they did do. Last week. With great fanfare. When they had two actual scandals the public would have cared about."
Tod Kelly, whose post is worth reading in full. He points out that the GOP was handed two scandals by a Democratic administration, and completely squandered the political capital gained therefrom by continuing to devote political resources to shine a light on Benghazi.
From a purely political perspective, the GOP has done a terrible job of “managing” these scandals. To wit, they’ve consistently undermined their own credibility by saying things about the scandals that have no basis in fact:
This weekend Rand Paul went on CNN and claimed that the IRS actually has a written policy instructing its employees to target “people opposed to the President.” That’s a pretty damning accusation to make, and it’s one that is sure to be brought up for countless hours on Fox news and talk radio. It might even be enough to heavily damage Obama, save one small thing: this written policy that IRS agents everywhere rely on? Apparently it’s one that Paul has not actually, you know, seen. He’s heard about it of course, (though he can’t say from who), but he just can’t get his hands on it. (Because really, how could one expect to get their hands on a written policy statement that steers a federal government department that employs around 100,000 people?)
This is the sort of thing that you need to be able to back up. The IRS scandal should have been a big win politically for the GOP, even though it’s not quite the scandal they’re claiming it is. But they’ve destroyed much of the political capital they could have gained from it by saying things that are false, or for which they have no concrete basis. ”A little bird told me” doesn’t hold water most of the time.
The saddest part of all of this is that the biggest scandal—the warrantless surveillance and seizures of Associated Press communications—is not really on the GOP’s radar. That’s not say nobody’s complaining—plenty of people are. But it’s pretty clear that politically, the GOP is far more concerned about Benghazi and the IRS. Freedom of the
liberal press? Not so much. And they’ll pay for it come election time.
Observing that only about 12 percent of police stops resulted in an arrest or summons, Judge Scheindlin, who is hearing the case without a jury, focused her remarks on Monday on the other 88 percent of stops, in which the police did not find evidence of criminality after a stop. She characterized that as “a high error rate” and remarked to a lawyer representing the city, “You reasonably suspect something and you’re wrong 90 percent of the time.”
Four states have been hit by devastating tornadoes over the past 24 hours. The picture below is from Moore, Oklahoma:
This desolated wasteland used to hold houses, yards, and streets. According to the Tri-State Weather facebook page:
A substantial part of the town has been flattened and thousands of homes are destroyed. At least two elementary schools took a direct hit from the tornado. This will go down as the worst or one of the worst tornadoes ever. The only way in and out right now is by air to some parts and the National Guard is assisting in the search and rescue operation.
The tornado that hit Oklahoma was 2 miles wide and killed at least 51 people. The America Blog has an excellent aggregation of social media coverage of the storms here.
A fabulous Essay from Yale Law Journal:
On March 29, 2011, the Supreme Court—by a vote of five to four—overturned a $14 million jury verdict in favor of John Thompson, a Louisiana man who spent fourteen years on death row because prosecutors withheld exculpatory blood evidence from his defense attorneys. Thompson had sued the Orleans Parish District Attorney’s Office based on a failure-to-train theory, arguing that the office had denied him due process of law through its deliberate indifference toward the need to train its attorneys in proper disclosure procedures. Thompson’s failure-to-train theory relied on Brady v. Maryland, a 1963 Supreme Court decision that requires prosecutors to share evidence with defendants in criminal cases when that evidence is “material either to guilt or to punishment.” The Connick Court, in an opinion authored by Justice Thomas, disagreed with Thompson’s argument. According to Justice Thomas’s majority opinion, a single Brady violation—i.e., a one-time failure to disclose “material” evidence—is insufficient to establish liability on a failure-to-train theory.
Emphasis added for one of the many reasons I drink at night.
You’ve heard the news.
In a recent report card from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), comparing which tech companies protect user’s data from government snooping, Yahoo received one of the lowest scores with only one out of five stars. Tumblr performed significantly better, receiving three stars for requiring a warrant for content, fighting for users’ privacy rights in Congress, and publishing law enforcement guidelines.
LTMC: Yet another reason to be skeptical of the buyout.
Also from the article:
There are many reasons why Black women may choose not to report incidences of sexual assault. Survivors of all races often fear that they will not be believed or will be blamed for their attack, but Black women face unique challenges.
Historically, law enforcement has been used to control African-American communities through brutality and racial profiling. It may be difficult for a Black woman to seek help if she feels it could be at the expense of African-American men or her community. The history of racial injustice (particularly the stereotype of the Black male as a sexual predator) and the need to protect her community from further attack might persuade a survivor to remain silent.
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