Five months after he was arrested and imprisoned for a sarcastic Facebook post, Justin Carter has been bailed out of jail by an “anonymous good Samaritan” who put up half a million dollars to help send the teenager home.
Carter, a 19-year-old Texan, was detained earlier this year after a woman from another country saw a video he posted online and reported it to police as a “terroristic threat.” Just 18 at the time, Carter was involved in a spat with another Facebook user over the computer game “League of Legends.”
“Someone had said something to the effect of ‘Oh you’re insane, you’re crazy, you’re messed up in the head,” Carter’s father, Jack, told the local KKUVE News at the time, “to which he replied, ‘Oh yeah, I’m real messed up in the head, I’m going to shoot up a school full of kids and eat their still, beating hearts.”
The teen reportedly followed up his joke with “LOL” and “JK,” Internet abbreviations for “laugh out loud” and “just kidding.” But that appendix apparently escaped the Canadian woman who reported the “threat” and the Texas police officers, who quickly threatened Carter with eight years in prison.
Carter has been locked up ever since, at times held in solitary confinement and struggling to fend off attacks from other inmates. His attorney confirmed Thursday that he had been freed by an unknown donor. Carter’s next court date is unknown.
“Without getting into the really nasty details, he’s had concussions, black eyes, moved four times from base for his own protection,” Jack Carter told NPR earlier this month. “He’s put in solitary confinement, nude, for days on end because he’s depressed. All of this is extremely traumatic to a kid. This is a horrible experience.”
The Texas sheriff who had Carter arrested said the young man’s future is up to the local prosecutor to decide.
Justin’s mother, Jennifer, started a petition on Change.org pleading with the public to help her free her son. The open letter has attracted more than 125,000 signatures, although she noted the support is still more important than ever with Justin free on bail.
“I’m happy to have him out right now, but my son is still facing a felony terrorism charge and years in prison if found guilty,” she wrote on July 11. “I have said all along that his Facebook joke was made in poor taste and understand why it raised some concern, but Justin has no prior record and he was clearly not actually threatening anyone.”