A Methuen Teen’s Facebook Status Has Kept Him in Jail for Three Weeks

An online petition calling for Cameron D’Ambrosio’s release has over 50,000 signatures.

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Photo via Cam Dambrosio’s Facebook page, according to the Eagle-Tribune.

When 18-year-old Methuen High student Cameron D’Ambrosio was arrested for posting rap lyrics to his Facebook that implied he wanted to outdo the Boston Marathon bombers, some complained that the charges against him— “communicating terrorist threats,” according to Methuen Police, a crime that carries a potential 20 year sentence—were too harsh, an example of government overreach in the emotional time after an actual terrorist attack.

Now that D’Ambrosio’s been sitting in jail for nearly a month, those complaints are getting louder. An online petition organized by Center for Rights and Fight for the Future, sister organizations concerned with internet freedom, has gone viral in the past several days, with over 55,000 digital signatures calling for his release to his family, according to Evan Greer, the petition’s campaign manager.

There’s no doubt that D’Ambrosio is at the least guilty of exercising seriously terrible judgement. D’Ambrosio, who regularly posts video and lyrics of his raps, was arrested on May 1 after he posted these lyrics to his Facebook:

I’m not in reality, So when u see me [bleeping] go insane and make the news, the paper, and the [bleeping] federal house of horror known as the white house, Don’t [bleeping] cry or be worried because all YOU people [bleeping] caused this [bleep].

[Bleep] a boston bominb wait till u see the [bleep] I do, I’ma be famous rapping, and beat every murder charge that comes across me!

In the wake of a seemingly random act of mass terrorism in Boston, it’s easy to understand why police might have considered that Facebook post worthy of follow-up.

But D’Ambrosio’s defenders argue that his words were artistic, that they’re just an example of an aspiring rapper’s braggadocio, and therefore, that they’re protected free speech. They also complain that his lengthy imprisonment while he awaits the chance to make his case constitutes an excessive punishment in itself. So far, they say, police haven’t produced any more evidence that D’Ambrosio intended to act on his speech. That makes it unreasonable, his defenders say, for the government to keep him imprisoned for months while he waits to make that case in court.

A judge, at least, seemed to think there was enough danger to keep D’Ambrosio incarcerated. On May 9, the judge demanded that he be held without bail until another hearing, though police testified that they hadn’t found weapons or other evidence that he was planning violence. D’Ambrosio and his lawyer appeared in Salem Superior Court Thursday morning for a bail review hearing, where a different judge heard his lawyer’s argument that D’Ambrosio should be released to his family, who appeared at the hearing too. His lawyer suggested conditions, like a GPS tracker and no computer access, that would ensure the community’s safety. That judge’s decision is expected within a few days, according to Greer. (Update: Since this post, the judge ruled to deny D’Ambrosio bail, Reuters reports.)

D’Ambrosio’s case seems to come down to how a reasonable person might interpret the intention behind the speech in question—as a threat or as a form of artistic expression without any real world intentions behind it.

Boston College Law Professor Kent Greenfield says the fact that the words in question came in the form a rap song doesn’t itself give them First Amendment protection. “The fact that it’s in music doesn’t cleanse it from intent or from communicating a willfulness to harm someone else,” he said, but it may provide his lawyer evidence that D’Ambrosio was simply working within a musical tradition that suggests there wasn’t any real world intention behind the words.

What seems clear is that regardless of whether the government should respond to a Facebook status by imprisoning someone for months before he makes his defense, a legal adult should know that these days, it certainly might.

“There’s every incentive these days to take these things seriously,” Greenfield says. “I think there’s a risk in moments where people are worried about their security that civil liberties, especially freedom of speech, get eroded … But I think people need to understand that even if they have a valid First Amendment argument, the First Amendment argument might not help them in the first 30 days.”

 

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  • http://silverfang77.tumblr.com/ Silver Fang

    What a country we live in where children are expelled from school for playing cops/robbers and a teenager is arrested for posting offensive rap lyrics on Facebook.

    • Pazziac

      And what if he was serious? Should we him go with a slap on the hand until he actually does do something? I’m not FBI or a local cop, so I don’t know what is going on, but are you going to sing the praises of law enforcement and call them all heroes and then when they actually do their job call them Draconian? Hypocrite!

      • http://capnswing.tumblr.com/ Christopher Swing

        Last I checked they weren’t thought police, nor do they or should they have a “precrime division.”

    • John Gomes

      What a country we live in: not allowing young ignorant men to terrorize free people, without consequence. Bravo to the rational and the vigilant. Golden rule above all.

      • whymeplease

        What a country we live in the founding fathers were called ignorant, misfits by the elites and the rulers in there community glad they stood up. But then again with your type of thinking the founding father ” terrorist like remarks of over throwing the king and death to him” they should of been dealt with and maybe we would still be a colony

        • blair houghton

          They were dealt with. But they dealt back and won. Putting down insurrection is a right of government. Beating them anyway is a right of insurrectionists. Luckily, what we ended up with after that insurrection was a robust democracy, so we can have an insurrection every 2 or 4 or 6 years, depending on the part of our government we want to overthrow.

      • DemTittays

        Lets not make this kid out to be Thomas Fucking Jefferson, okay. He’s just an ignorant kid that got hung up in something much bigger than him.

        If you want someone to blame for this kid going to jail, blame your own ignorant, twitchy, reactionary selves. Every time something happens in this country, you guys start screaming for the government to take away more of your rights. Let’s focus on the issues. The kid is being held for a violation of his freedom of speech, and before you get all uppity and start trying to tell me this isn’t protected speech, read the constitution. All speech is protected, and the dictionary classifies it as so:

        The communication or expression of thoughts into words.

        Clearly this is a violation of his freedom of speech, but some fearful twitchy animal decided that we needed to prevent crime before it happened like Tom Cruise in fucking Minority Report, and here we are. Today’s America. Where they can whisk you off to prison for just about any damn thing they please.

    • Kit Love

      I totally agree with you on the cops and robbers and the rest of the stupid expulsions lately… in this case however, I think a little more time in jail will teach the kid not to make threats even if he isn’t planning on backing them.

      • Dmitri Antone

        Lyrics and threats are two vastly different things. Maybe you should learn what the difference is before you say stupid things.

        • Kit Love

          oh really? they’re so different? Apparently not if the lyrics contain threats. Derp de derp… asshole!

          • Nate

            Biggie said, “Ima get paid, blow up like the world trade.” The kid was using a metaphor, though yeah, he’s obviously not the best lyricist and it wasn’t that clear. He was saying, “I’m gonna blow up (get big) like the Boston bombing. I’ll be so big, that I could get away with murder if I wanted.” It wasn’t a threat. As far as him thinking violence is cool: he is simply a product of a society and a country that promotes violence all over the world on a daily basis, and a music and entertainment industry that only markets music and other products with messages of violence, drugs, consumerism and self glorification. These are the kids our system is creating.

            You don’t understand that, it’s cool, you’re a sheltered sheep of a bitch.

            If you ask me they’re just testing their boundries. The fact that even a single asshole approves of this shit, just tells them they can get away with worse.

  • Alex Garrow

    Be afraid to speak your mind in America, you might get locked up. That’s the message that is being sent here. What is going to happen to actual political dissenters that want to voice their opinions in an open air forum, this is setting dangerous precedent. Watts vs. United States, people!

    • http://www.thirdwave.org/ Roy Schmidt

      In what constructive or useful way was this young gentleman speaking his mind, voicing his opinion? Can you summarize his opinion for me?

      • http://capnswing.tumblr.com/ Christopher Swing

        There is no “constructive or useful” requirement to the First Amendment.

        • http://www.thirdwave.org/ Roy Schmidt

          I’m not suggesting there is. But I repeat, please summarize his opinion for me.

          • http://capnswing.tumblr.com/ Christopher Swing

            You’re just acting like it’s a requirement. Are you not bright enough to read what the lyrics and interpret them yourself?

          • http://www.thirdwave.org/ Roy Schmidt

            So you can’t deal with my question, and all you have to resort to is a personal attack. I knew I should not have bothered.

          • http://capnswing.tumblr.com/ Christopher Swing

            No, your question is dumb, and baiting. Just because you ask something, doesn’t mean it’s actually worthy of an answer. And it’s not an insult to ask if you’re not bright enough to read it and think for yourself – the other option is that you simply refuse to. The only person making you look bad here is you.

            Anyone who bothered to read what he wrote could see that it’s just common, general frustration with the state/”man” and rap braggadocio. Did you really need it spelled out for you?

          • http://capnswing.tumblr.com/ Christopher Swing

            Yep, I guess you were bluffing and needed it spelled out for you. Didn’t work out for you so well, eh?

            Should have stuck to being “local clown ends up being proximate to major event” and kept your mouth shut – you obviously didn’t have anything constructive to contribute other than displaying a lack of constitutional rights.

        • blair houghton

          Not as such, but the courts going up to SCOTUS know what you don’t: All rights have limits where they infringe on other rights. “Your right to swing your fist ends at my nose,” as Holmes put it. The 1st Amendment is there specifically to prohibit the government from punishing speech critical of the government; and it’s been generally accepted to protect just about anything else non-threatening and non-offensive you might say or depict. But you can’t say certain words on TV in most situations, and you can’t threaten someone and claim 1st Amendment protection. The thing about this case, though, is that it’s not a threat against anyone in particular, and it’s not a threat against everyone, so who’s it threatening other than the paranoid? And one look at that picture and you wouldn’t believe a word this twinkie said anyway. 1’s and 5’s? Bitch please. So it’s not credible. The police and court are overreacting because they’re sensitive to the massive upheaval caused by an unusual and violent and very recent event. They’re asserting their pretrial power to its fullest extent in order to let more genuine perps know what awaits them. If this kid gets so much as probation his lawyer’s a moron.

          • http://capnswing.tumblr.com/ Christopher Swing

            Informing someone there is no “constructive or useful” requirement is NOT saying there *no* limits. Nice strawman you built to knock down for your own entertainment there. Yes, I know about things like time/place/manner restrictions, FCC power to regulate limited resource of airwaves, and etc.

            It’s too bad you had to start off like a condescending asshat, the rest of what you have to say is essentially correct.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Blair-Houghton/1314334140 Blair Houghton

            Look at your comment just above mine and ask yourself who’s the asshat. And you’ve still never answered his question, you just continued to change the subject. My presumption that you were being ignorant is probably correct, and calling it a strawman is not.

          • http://capnswing.tumblr.com/ Christopher Swing

            Hey, aspie, his question wasn’t genuine (obviously) and he only needed to be corrected on his incorrect presumption. I didn’t need to go on a pedantic rant on every nuance of what I was taught in communications law class.

          • http://www.thirdwave.org/ Roy Schmidt

            What a mean person you are.

          • http://capnswing.tumblr.com/ Christopher Swing

            You think it’s OK to throw someone in jail for months, deny them bail, and hang a 20-year prison sentence over their heads for dumb rap lyrics on Facebook…

            But I pointed out how much of a jerk you were being in a website comments section. And now *I’m* the mean one? Ha!

          • republican jeezus

            The poster did not throw the young man in jail for 20 months.

            But don’t let the facts get in your way.

          • http://capnswing.tumblr.com/ Christopher Swing

            Nobody said he did, but don’t let that strawman get in your way. Or can’t you read very well?

          • republican jeezus

            Prove where the poster stated he thought it was ok to throw this man in jail, deny them bail and force a 20 year conviction on the young man. Prove where the community, courts or LE thought they were “dumb lyrics”. Usually an arrest and incarceration means the system takes the charge seriously. And ad hominem attacks against me and my reading skills are standard indicators that one cannot debate the issue on the merits of their own argument. Poor you!

          • http://capnswing.tumblr.com/ Christopher Swing

            Read the thread again, try to understand, private-activity troll.

          • republican jeezus

            Most Americans these days are pretty much worthless, self absorbed, me me me, whiners that need to be right on news article message boards at all costs.

  • http://capnswing.tumblr.com/ Christopher Swing

    Fat, stupid cop Joe Solomon saw his chance to make *another* terrorism arrest, and he took it. Odds are this one will have the dumb terrorism charges dropped, too.

  • whymeplease

    What a country we live in: If that’s the case all the songs from musicians saying over throw the government let it rain with blood etc should charged with terrorist threats and held with out trial forever or be taught a lesson never speak out

  • whymeplease

    What a country we live in: If that’s the case all the songs from musicians saying over throw the government let it rain with blood etc should charged with terrorist threats and held with out trial forever or be taught a lesson never speak out

  • janicevalverde

    If he posted those stupid, anti-social, threats of violence for all the world to see, then he needs to be taught that it is not cool, it is not OK, it is wrong, it is unacceptable, and it should not be tolerated. We do have to draw the line somewhere and not waiver. I am a critic of the way jails and prisons operate, but in this case, one month might just the right dose for this kid. I hope he comes out realizing why he went in. And no, he shouldn’t be sent home to his family. . . not until his month is up. He’ll survive. He’ll learn from it.

    • http://www.facebook.com/maribel.christensen.3 Maribel Christensen

      It’s stupid words like one hears every day at stop signs in the next car. Stupid kids the Boston bombers. They should have bombed a big bank on Wall Street instead, not those innocent people in the marathon. The big murderers, Bush and Cheney
      got off scott free by the new Obama administration killers. , Lee

  • gungho jon

    The real terrorists and liars and people making threats that should be jailed and or executed: the USSA government: according to Rathbonezvizionz: http://rathbonezvizionz.wordpress.com/2013/04/26/who-are-the-real-cowards-and-terrorists-understanding-defintions-of-terror/

  • John Gomes

    Angry young man> threatens kids with gun violence> Gets arrested for beating his sister & threatening her with knife> posts facebook status which hints at possible mass-killing> 40 concerned classmates & parents report it to school principal> school calls cops> Gets arrested = Mind Blown

  • SugarHillFab5

    Those are rap lyrics? My goodness, he is horrible. Just another wannabe. So much for this lil punk getting a decent job in the future once an employer Googles his name. Smart move MC Brainiac.

    “Which types of speech are not protected by the First Amendment?
    Although different scholars view unprotected speech in different ways, there are basically nine categories:

    Obscenity, Fighting words, Defamation (includes libel, slander), Child pornography, Perjury, Blackmail, Incitement to imminent lawless action, True threats, Solicitations to commit crimes.

    Some experts also would add treason, if
    committed verbally, to that list. Plagiarism of copyrighted material is
    also not protected.”

    So, no. Not all speech is protected. Basically, don’t be an a-hole.

  • K Ssam

    my god go after the real terrorists

  • apostasyusa

    The Judge in this case is a hack, as are all the people who thought arresting him was necessary. People supporting the government position in this case reminds me how cowardly Americans have become. All it takes to lock people up in jail these days are some kids rap lyrics that are taken out of context. WOW! Look at all you liberty sucking hacks! The terrorist have won! WOW America…..wow. Land of the weak minded and home of the blames!

    If trash talk is a measure for jail time then Rush Limbaugh should be in jail for life!!! He and the Republican lackeys have been inciting violence for years!! You people make me sick.

    • republican jeezus

      It’s not trash talk and it’s not protected speech. Please take some time to read the article. And personally, I could care less about your liberty whine. I’m sure your some urban american softy with big ideas and important things to say at cocktail parties. You need to get far away from modern urban society and american culture if you want to even have the smallest idea of what liberty means.

      • http://capnswing.tumblr.com/ Christopher Swing

        Are you just trying to build up posts in old threads to create a history for trolling on other sites, or what? You could at least pick a position that wasn’t proven wrong months ago.

  • Not-a-sheep-like-you

    Why are people taking this so seriously? He has the freedom to speak, our constitution gives us that, and we should uphold it, even if it DOES mean personal danger to us. The law is not supposed to prevent people from offending others, and if it’s trying… It really shouldn’t be. As for the “threat”? First of all, it’s obvious that this guy is no threat at all. Just from reading the status you can tell he doesn’t have the brains to bomb a goddamn doghouse. And if he tries… Why do you think it’s the government’s job to stop the threat? What happened to personal responsibility… the idea that protecting yourself is YOUR job? If you really do think you’re in danger from someone like him, don’t try to get the government involved. All they do is use blanket, intrusive policies that do more harm than good. If you are worried about your safety, carry a weapon and don’t be afraid. Don’t needlessly involve everyone else.

    • republican jeezus

      You need to read the article. This is not protected free speech. It’s the governments job to uphold the law. Please educate yourself, it’s not that people feel in danger of him that caused him to land in jail, it was something called the law.

      • http://capnswing.tumblr.com/ Christopher Swing

        A grand jury and a judge figured out it was protected speech two months ago. You might want to catch up.

  • markhanser

    Stupidity is a choice, unless you really do have an IQ lower than 100. At 18, this kid should know better, A generation ago, most 18 year olds certainly did. Let him stew in his own stupid-juice.

    • republican jeezus

      At 18 you’re an adult.

  • BadMan

    Look at this stupid douche, he deserved what he got, considering all of the shit that has happened recently, it wasn’t a good idea for him to be rapping about that stuff. Any retard should know that.

    More trash, trying to be gangster, that’s all I see. I mean did you see the picture of him they lifted off his Facebook profile? I hope he got raped while he was in there.

    Fucking kids these days.

  • republican jeezus

    Throw the book at this dumb, ignorant, and valueless american white kid wangster. Some people like this like to play pretend ghetto thug, now he get’s to learn about jail on the inside. I hope the heavy hand of the government comes down and makes a major example out of him. Amen!

    • http://capnswing.tumblr.com/ Christopher Swing

      Why are you resurrecting a months-old thread? Grand Jury refused to indict and he was (rightly, finally) released by a judge back on JUNE 7th.