Teen's Joke 'Threat' Lands Him In Solitary; While Cop Saying He Wants To 'Kill' The First Lady Walks Free (Techdirt)
Thursday July 11th, 2013
In life, there are often (at minimum) two sets of rules -- one that applies to average people, and one that applies to those on a more rarefied plane. Our legislators do it all the time, enacting laws that they have little intention of following or carving out exceptions in those that already exist.
The law enforcement community is one of the worst offenders of the double standard. Unwritten rules protect bad cops and a nearly universal "hands off" policy ensures everything from minor traffic violations to drunk driving will be neatly swept under the rug.
Mike Riggs at Reason points out a particularly egregious application of the double standard. In recent months, a pair of teens have been arrested and arraigned on terrorism charges stemming from some ill-advised postings. Cameron D'Ambrosio, whose charges were ultimately dropped, was held without bail for two months as prosecutors pursued "communicating terrorist threat" charges. Justin Carter, a teen who made some unfortunate remarks during the course of some perfectly normal video game smack-talking, was arrested on March 27th and is still in jail.
For this transgression, Carter was not just investigated, but arrested. He's been in jail for months now, held on $500,000 bail. His attorney says he's been beaten several times and placed on suicide watch; suicide watch, in case you didn't know, translates to "placed naked in solitary confinement." D'Ambrosio's "threat" was non-specific and more centered on bragging about his impending rap fame. The inclusion of the Boston Bombing and the White House into his boasting caught the attention of local law enforcement. Carter's smack talking mentioned shooting up a kindergarten, ending with indications he was joking. In both cases, there was context surrounding the comments and neither "threat" was targeted at any specific person or group of people.
Contrast these two cases with one involving a District of Columbia police officer.
D.C. Police Officer Christopher Picciano, "a 17-year veteran who was a member of the elite presidential motorcade detail," will be suspended without pay for a little over a month after joking about killing the first lady, threatening to go on a shooting spree, and calling Pres. Obama a communist. No jail time. No terrorism charges. No trip to solitary confinement. No being held without bail. Here's a cop, who lives and works in DC, including working in close proximity with the president, who stated specifically he'd "wanted to kill" Michelle Obama, and yet, he walks away almost unscathed.
The lack of overzealous prosecutors is also conspicuous in its absence.
According to the Washington Post, the U.S. attorney's office declined to press charges against Picciano because it "agree[d] with the Secret Service that Picciano was not serious with his comment about Michelle Obama." Picciano also "wrote on Facebook about taking a rifle to a tall building," after the D.C. Council voted to trim pension benefits for the MPD. That wasn't serious either, apparently. The prosecutors "agreed with the Secret Service." That's rather cozy. Too bad no prosecutors went looking for anything other than having their biases confirmed when dealing with Carter and D'Ambrosio. In both teens' cases, their homes, belongings and computers were searched but investigators were unable to find anything more damning than the posts in questions. No weapons. No evidence of any intent to carry out these "threats." No background suggesting these threats should be taken seriously. And yet, both teens were incarcerated. Justin Carter is still in jail.
That's the process for everyday Americans, especially injudicious teens. Here's the flip side of the double standard.
Picciano joked about killing the first lady and going on a Charles Whitman-esque shooting spree, yet remains free and employed in a job that allows him to carry a gun; Carter, a 19-year-old who doesn't own a gun, joked about shooting up a school, and is being kept naked in solitary confinement as a result. As Riggs points out, law enforcement members are given a benefit of doubt that's rarely extended to the general public. This low level cronyism further drives a wedge between citizens and so-called "public servants" who shield each other from the repercussions of their words and actions. Law enforcement members have defended themselves by stating they need to "take every threat seriously." Obviously, that's nothing more than self-serving bullshit used to justify the overzealous prosecution of a few mouthy teens.