Police in Kentucky arrested a man and charged him with making “terroristic threats” after he posted song lyrics to Facebook.
Greenville resident James Evans was released from jail last Wednesday. Police claim the 31-year-old made threatening remarks when he posted lyrics to the song “Class Dismissed (A Hate Primer)” from the 80s metal band Exodus on his Facebook account last month.
The “threatening” lyrics posted by Evans, from an album released in 2010, read:
Student bodies lying dead in the halls, a blood splattered treatise of hate. Class dismissed is my hypothesis, gun fire ends in debate.
School officials reportedly took action after “multiple agencies” received calls from concerned persons.
Evans was arrested and jailed for eight days. A warrant says he “threatened to kill students and or staff at school,” according to WFIE.
“Evans says he’s been told the case will be deferred for six months and he will have to undergo a mental evaluation,” WFIE reports.
While police maintain a tangible threat was made, Evans asserts the post was made on impulse and that police violated his First Amendment right to free speech.
“It’s nonsense. I feel like my civil rights have been violated. You know First Amendment freedom of speech out the window. Even all the guys I was in the cell with me they thought it was nonsense themselves. I had several officials tell me it was nonsense that there was no reason why I should have even been here,” Evans told WFIE.
A member of Exodus said Evans’ arrest “is something [he] never believed could happen in a free society,” and said it shows America is “caving in to paranoia” and that we “are well on our way to becoming an Orwellian society.”
From a statement posted to Exodus’ website:
“The idea that an individual in this great country of ours could be arrested for simply posting lyrics to a song is something I never believed could happen in a free society,” states EXODUS guitarist Gary Holt. “James Evans was simply posting lyrics to a band he likes on Facebook, and he was locked up for it. The song ‘Class Dismissed (A Hate Primer)’ was written as a view through the eyes of a madman and in no way endorses that kind of fucked up behavior. It was the Virginia Tech massacre perpetrated by Seung-Hui Cho that was the subject and inspiration to write the song, one in which we put the brakes on playing it live after the Sandy Hook shooting, as we did not want to seem insensitive.”
Gary continues, “As some of us in EXODUS are parents, of course these things hit close to home, it’s every parent’s worst fear. These moments are the stuff of nightmares, and life, as well as music, isn’t always pretty. But when we start to overreact to things like lyrics by any band, including EXODUS, and start arresting people, we are caving in to paranoia and are well on our way to becoming an Orwellian society.”
Besides the obvious need to provide better social media training for police and their intelligence gatherers (i.e. the citizen snitches recruited to “See Something, Say Something”), Evans’ arrest is indicative of a creeping encroachment of citizens’ First Amendment rights.
Back in 2012, we reported on a similar incident in which former Iraq and Afghanistan veteran Brandon Raub was taken into custody by police, FBI and Secret Service agents after the FBI deemed a series of Facebook posts, which were critical of the federal government, “terrorist” in nature. Raub was snatched up from his home and detained for a week in a psychiatric ward, and was provided little to no explanation concerning the justification for his arrest.
Last year, a 19-year-old Texas teen was also arrested after he posted a comment while playing a session of the online video game League of Legends, despite his comment being followed up by the phrases “LOL” and “J/K,” indicating what he said was made in jest.
A rapper from Massachusetts was also arrested last year after posting a verse from one of his songs on Facebook that read, “fu*k a boston bombinb [sic] wait til u see the shit I do, I’ma be famous for rapping, and beat every murder charge that comes across me.” In that case, 18-year-old Cameron D’Ambrosio faced 20 years imprisonment, however a grand jury ultimately refused to indict him.
“Turning someone into a criminal simply because they showed a little lack of judgement isn’t the appropriate response,” writes Tech Dirt’s Tim Cushing. “Beyond that, there’s the First Amendment — which doesn’t cover actual threats but definitely protects stuff a bunch of people mistakenly viewed as a threat.”