Mother of Justin Carter, the jailed League of Legends teen we reported on yesterday, sits down with FreetoPlay TV.
Yesterday we posted an article about Justin Carter who was, after playing a game of League of Legends, jailed for comments made on his personal Facebook page.
Your comments and our interest in the story led to us reach out to Justin’s mother, Jennifer Carter, who was kind enough to sit down with FreetoPlay TV’s very own Michael Byrne and talk to us about Justin’s imprisonment in an exclusive interview.If you missed that story, you may want to check out our “League of Legends Jailed” story first but Jennifer provides us a recap of the events leading up to Justin’s hearing this Monday in our interview.
Magicman: We ran a brief story yesterday, because of the link to League of Legends which is pretty prominent with our audience, and the feedback was overwhelmingly, ‘Yes he said something in poor taste, but this is ridiculous.” For us to get the facts straight, can you take us through what has gone on so far with Justin?
Jennifer Carter: February 13th was when he was playing League of Legends and I’m not sure and no one seems to be sure why it spilled over into Facebook, but it did. There were a few people involved in this argument and there was some post made on the site while they were playing and so when he was on Facebook the person whose Facebook page it was said ‘Well you’re f****d in the head and crazy.’ And Justin, if you knew my son, is incredibly sarcastic.
[blockquote right="pull-right"]“The only evidence we have from the DA’s Office is a screen capture of his (Facebook) statement and the previous statement.”[/blockquote]
He has a very sarcastic, dark sense of humor and he unfortunately said the equivalent of ‘Oh yeah I’m so messed in the head I’m going to go kill a kindergarten and eat their hearts.’ Immediately after his statement he posted ‘lol’ and ‘j/k’ and the argument continued from there, but the only evidence we have from the DA’s office is a screen capture of his statement and the previous statement. Just Justin’s and the previous statement.
MM: That’s all Justin’s attorney has been presented with by the DA is a screen capture of a couple of Facebook messages?
JC: Yes. The next day, February 14th, he (Justin) went to work. He’s 18. He has his own apartment, well he lived in an apartment with a roommate and he had a job in San Antonio, and the Sheriffs came to his job and arrested him. Then he was transported from San Antonio to Austin because the woman in Canada found his father’s address where he used to live which is 100 yards from an elementary school. At that point, he sat in jail and bond set at $250,000. His father and I don’t have that kind of money. We thought honestly that yeah that was a pretty bad thing that he said and we can see why they would be concerned after the shooting in Newtown happened a couple months before. So ya everyone was on edge. There have been other teenagers arrested for comments made in Facebook and things of that nature. We thought that once the police talked to him, which we thought would be that day, they would understand it was a stupid comment that he made a dumb joke and once they searched his home they would see there were no weapons and he wasn’t a threat. Basically nothing happened until March 13th. He sat in jail from February 14th until March 13 without being questioned by the police. No one was questioned by the police. They went to his father’s house a week after he was arrested and asked did Justin live here which his father said no, and they asked if he had any guns or permits for guns which Justin’s father said no and that was it. Then he sat in jail.
MM: No explanation why they had him cooling his heels in jail for a month?
JC: None. On March 13th he was questioned by the detectives and he thought best thing for him to do would be to tell the truth. He told them that yes he made the statement and it was a joke and I feel terrible. It was taken badly and I’m sorry for scaring people I didn’t mean to. I didn’t think people would see it or that anyone would be afraid of it. He told them that he did not live in Austin that he lived in New Braunfels and that was it. They questioned him and got his information and then a week after he was questioned they searched his home in New Braunfels and the only thing they found was his computer. He doesn’t have any guns. They confiscated his computer and the only thing that happened after that they transferred him from Austin to New Braunfels and raised his bond to half a million dollars. We don’t know why.
MM: No explanation on that either? (The increase in bail amount.)
JC: No, and this was after they searched his home and found no weapons, and we assume they looked us up and saw we had no weapons. They basically had done all the investigating and the judge raised the bond to half a million dollars which of course we really couldn’t afford to get him out and he’s been in jail ever since.
Justin has languished in jail for the three and a half months since his transfer to New Braunfels, celebrating his 19th birthday behind bars. There is a hearing set for Monday July 1st to determine if Justin’s case will proceed to trial and under what charges. Jennifer Carter was trying to stay upbeat during the interview, but after the recap, began to get very emotional when we asked how Justin is doing. Words cannot convey the heartbreak a mother in this situation must be enduring.
To make matters worse, Justin has had to be transferred to multiple facilities while awaiting his hearing due to his being assaulted multiple times. Jennifer then told us tearfully that Justin was placed in solitary confinement for his own protection two weeks ago, and is under suicide watch.
MM: How is Justin holding up? I know it’s a mess for you and Justin’s father trying to figure out the legal side but where is his mind?
JC: Well you know at first he was sure that as soon as he spoke to the police he would get out and he was a little naive in that way. His father and I both counseled him NOT to talk to the police without his attorney present and he said ‘No I’m just going to tell the truth’ and that’s what he did. After they transferred him to New Braunfels and raised his bond he became very depressed and he (sobbing) this is kind of the hard part to talk about. It’s incredibly hard to talk to your child on the phone and hear them think they are never going to see the sun again and have them try and bargain with you that they will never play a video game again if they can just be free.’I promise I will never go on Facebook again or go near a computer again if I can just be free. I’m sorry.’ So he’s feeling pretty helpless, and when the DA for New Braunfels said the only plea bargain they would be willing to go with was 8 years in prison he got very depressed.
[blockquote right="pull-left"]“They keep switching him from unit to unit and apparently after the last time he was assaulted the guards were concerned that he would try and kill himself.”[/blockquote]
MM: So they want to offer 8 years in prison in return for an admission for something hes already admitted he did?
JC: Basically yes. So they don’t have to take it to trial and forget that it happened and that he exists. Yeah he became very hopeless and depressed. He’s had a pretty rough time in jail. He’s never been in any kind of trouble before and hes not really familiar with the criminal world. Yeah so he’s been transferred quite a few times after being assaulted in jail. They keep switching him from unit to unit and apparently after the last time he was assaulted the guards were concerned that he would try and kill himself and they placed him in solitary for his own protection. So now he’s in solitary confinement.
MM: How long has he been in solitary?
JC: Two weeks now I think. At first he was not liking it but now he thinks at least he’s safe and no one can hurt him.
MM: Now what is next in the legal proceedings? As far as hearings?
JC: He has a hearing on Monday July 1st. It’s a pretrial hearing where his attorney is going to ask for his bond to be reduced and again try to plea bargain with the DA’s office and see if they are willing to go lower then they are offering. On our side we are hoping they will just release him. That would be the dream scenario, but you know we would like them to drop it to a misdemeanor charge so that he doesn’t have felony terrorism on his background check for the rest of his life. Maybe he can do community service and talk to other teenagers and warn them to think about what they say before they say it online. There is one part (of myself) that just wants to get him out, but then there’s another part (of myself) that is just so angry that this is even happening and that we are supposed to have freedom of speech in this country and even if we don’t like them (comments) we are supposed to be able to say them without fear.
MM: I certainly thank you Jennifer for spending a few minutes with me here and wish Justin and your family the best in this situation. How can our readers and viewers help? They have the link to the change.org petition so I would assume that’s a good place to start, but is there anything else they can do?
JC: Honestly this whole thing has kind of taken us by surprise. (With) the internet attention we went from 300 signatures to having 16000 in a couple of days. We are not really prepared to do anything. We have been discussing setting up a legal fund so we could get him a lawyer instead of a court appointed attorney so at this point all we can really ask is that people sign the petition and send us their best wishes.
At this point, all Justin and his family can do is wait for the hearing on Monday and hope that the charges are dropped to a misdemeanor charge instead of the felony terrorism charge that the Attorney General has Justin being held under currently. Jennifer is baffled by this charge from the Attorney General because, as she understands it, under U.S. Law for someone to be held under terrorism charges, the Government must be able to prove that the accused is showing imminent threat and Intent, which so far all they have is a Facebook post to try and prove both.
When asked how did she thinks this whole situation was possible, Jennifer responded that she thought it was due to the extreme reaction to the recent string of violent shootings and the culture of fear that has been built up in the media. She understands that the comment was very bad, but so far the treatment of her son far exceeds any punishment he should receive for the comment.
Words cannot begin to express how I feel after hearing this interview. I cannot even begin to imagine what Justin and his family have been going through over the past couple months. I graduated high school right before the Columbine shootings and I graduated college right before the Virginia Tech shootings. I have 4 nieces and nephews in elementary school and the Newton shooting was very scary. The recent rash of shootings impacts everyone and it is something that is relatively new to our generation. The fear is understandable,
Justin’s comments were undoubtedly in very poor taste, but so is the treatment he has received so far. Just listening to Justin’s mothers talk about the lack of communication from the authorities, and the attempts to force Justin into a plea bargain that will take away a huge chunk of his life is chilling.
We’ll certainly keep you updated on Justin’s legal battle and will let you know if any crowd funding is set up for his legal expense.
After reading the interview, have your opinions changed any on this matter?