An 18-year-old was charged with terrorism and is facing ten years in jail after posting sarcastic comments on Facebook.
Justin Carter worked at a drapery shop in San Antonio when someone saw his comments and his life took a dramatic change for the worse.
Carter’s comments were part of a duel between nerds, but the details and context of the exchange are, in the eyes of Texas authorities, unimportant.
Prosecutors do not have the entire thread — instead they have a screenshot of three comments on a mobile phone, according to the Dallas Observer.
One of the comments appears to be a response to an earlier comment in which someone called Carter crazy. Carter’s retort was: "I’m fucked in the head alright, I think I’ma SHOOT UP A KINDERGARTEN [sic]."
Carter followed with "AND WATCH THE BLOOD OF THE INNOCENT RAIN DOWN."
The comments were posted sixty days after the Sandy Hook school-shooting tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut
A person writing under the profile name Hannah Love responded with "i hope you [burn] in hell you fucking prick,"
Carter responded with: "AND EAT THE BEATING HEART OF ONE OF THEM."
After Carter’s last comment someone in Canada notified local authorities.
Along with the screenshot showing of part of the thread and a link to Carter’s Facebook page, the tipster provided this narrative: "This man, Justin Carter, made a number of threats on Facebook to shoot up a class of kindergartners ... he also made numerous comments telling people to go shoot themselves in the face and drink bleach. The threats to shoot the children were made approximately an hour ago."
The information was forwarded to the Austin Regional Intelligence Centre.
Centre personnel ran Carter’s name and found that his listed address was "within 100 yards" of Wooldridge Elementary School.
The county prosecutor’s believed that there was probable cause to charge Carter with a third-degree terroristic threat which carries a penalty of two to 10 years – and a judge issued an arrest warrant.
Police records allege that, upon being booked, Carter stated, "I guess what you post on Facebook matters."
Officers searched Carter’s home, but "they found no guns in his house" and “no bomb-making materials”, according to his lawyer, Don Flanery.
His lawyer believes that his client’s comments are not a terroristic threat as defined by the Texas Penal Code.
Mr Flanary likens the Facebook posts at issue to a fight on the playground.
Mr Flanary also accuses law enforcement of coercing a confession from Carter while he was in jail.
Carter’s family have gathered thousands of signatures for an online petition calling for a judicial review of the case.
They have also created a Save Justin Carter Facebook community page to raise interest in the case and sold T-shirts in an attempt to raise money for his bail.
In a CNN interview, Carter’s father, Jack, said that his son was under suicide watch after being sexually abused while in jail.
Shortly after Mr Flanary requested a bond-reduction hearing an anonymous donor who put up the money for Carter’s bond.
According to Mr Flanary, a funny thing happened when media coverage exploded.
Comal County prosecutors, who wanted Carter off the streets for eight years, offered 10 years’ probation, with Carter pleading guilty to the felony charge.
Mr Flanary says that, as the father of two kids in elementary school, he understands why police wanted to follow up on the tip.
But, he says, police questioning should have revealed a somewhat dorky kid who wrote something dumb and offensive, not a kid bent on mass murder.