Kid exonerated for posting 'terroristic' rap lyrics on Facebook

An interesting case recently came up in Massachusetts in which the criminal charges brought against an 18-year-old aspiring rapper have been found to violate his First Amendment rights. While the case didn't take place here in Alabama, the implications are pretty far-reaching. With the government and law enforcement increasingly coming down hard on the side of security from terrorism versus citizens' civil rights, here is one case in which citizens -- in the form of a grand jury -- decided otherwise.

Shortly after the Boston bombing, the young man composed some rap lyrics and posted them on Facebook: "[expletive] 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."

After concerned fellow students notified the police, the 18-year-old was arrested on suspicion of making terroristic threats -- and not of the misdemeanor variety more familiar in Alabama. The terroristic threats he was accused of making were charged as a felony because the police believed he was threatening to hijack a car or build a bomb. Those criminal charges could have sent him to prison for 20 years.

He wasn't actually threatening anyone, of course. The proposed charges were sent to a grand jury for investigation and, to the surprise of police and county prosecutors, that grand jury has just refused to allow them to go forward.

The Methuen Police Department was apparently expecting something bigger, based on the three-exclamation-point statement it released the day he was arrested ("Methuen High School Student Arrested!!!") In that statement, the department describes diffusing the volatile situation and obtaining a search warrant for the young man's home (which turned up nothing).

"We should never allow tragedies to limit rights," said a spokesperson for the Center for Rights, who accused law enforcement of overreacting to the rap lyrics in light of the Boston bombing. "It doesn't actually make us safer."

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