By: Tom Duggan – May 22, 2013
First Amendment advocates and free speech organizations have taken notice of Methuen High School student Cameron D’Ambrosio, who is being held pending a $1M bail for what Methuen Police and the Essex County District Attorney’s office say are threats of “terrorism.”
On May 1st, Methuen Police Chief Joe Solomon told the Valley Patriot in our exclusive story (Methuen Police Arrest High School Student on Terrorism Charges), that the terrorist threats D’Ambrisio made were in the form of text messages and postings on Facebook.
One of those threats, Chief Solomon said, “was in the form of a rap, where he mentioned the White House, the Boston Marathon bombing, and said ‘everybody you will see what I am going to do, kill people.”
Methuen Police and Officials at Methuen High School have been on heightened alert to threats of violence after receiving multiple bomb threats to the school in the last few years. There was also an incident in January of this year where where 17 year old high school junior, Jacob Butze-Maille, was charged with terrorism after he made threats to commit a mass shooting at Methuen High School.
His arrest was just days before the mass shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown Connecticut.
(Solomon Prevents Another Columbine)
The District Attorney eventually dropped the charges of terrorism against Jacob Butze-Maille.
(District Attorney Drops Terror Charge on Methuen Teen who made “Columbine” Threat)
Radio Interview of Chief Solomon (Dec 15, 2012) Chief talks candidly about the details of the arrest and how they prevented a mass school shooting like the one that took place just days later in Newtown Connecticut.
Police officials in Methuen say they stand by their work in trying to prevent major tragedies like the Sandy Hook shootings and the Columbine massacre. Officials point to the fact that D’Ambrosio wrote about “beating every murder charge” on facebook and specifically referencing the Boston Marathon bombing, the White House and given his history with law enforcement, their response was “appropriate.”
A Question of Free Speech
Since the news of Cameron D’Ambrosio’s arrest broke on The Valley Patriot website May 1st, hundreds of free speech blog postings and website have been set up to protesting D’Ambrosio’s charges and demanding his release. The story has been picked up by dozens of other newspapers around the world, and has gone viral among free speech advocacy websites.
On the main page of “Fight for the Future” they portray D’Ambrosio as a innocent “kid” and urge readers to sign their on-line petition demanding the Methuen teen’s release.
In a statement from Tiffiniy Cheng Co-Director of The Center for Rights, she states that in less than 48 hours they have collected more than 50,000 signatures demanding D’Ambrosio’s release.
“The Center for Rights launched a petition for Cameron D’Ambrosio about 48 hours ago and we have seen an overwhelming response and outpouring of support. First Amendment issues are very important to many Americans, and it seems a lot of people out there are thinking, ‘that could be me.’ So far, we have collected over 50,000 signatures in support of Cam’s release, and our page with Cam’s story has been seen by nearly 1 million people. The prosecution has offered no evidence showing that Cam is a threat to anyone. He should be home with his family while he awaits trial, and these outrageous charges should be dropped. Cracking down on free speech won’t keep us safe, the real threat in this story is the threat to our online civil liberties,” Cheng wrote.
The website also takes aim at the media saying that there is a conspiracy to paint D’Ambrosio as guilty dooming his chances of a fair trial:
Slim chance of a fair trial.
It’s not a surprise that the judge in the case felt pressure to come down hard on Cam, since the local media has been quick to sensationalize the story and demonize a harmless teenager.
Before charges were even formally filed, local newspapers were already posting pictures from Cam’s Facebook and pointing to “disturbing” posts like “Fuck politics. Fuck Obama. Fuck the government!” and “satanic” imagery (like some image from a metal band’s poster.) All of this is free speech that is 100% protected by the 1st Amendment.
But Fox News went so far as to say that Cam’s facebook profile had images that they “couldn’t show on TV.” They and other media outlets frequently and intentionally printed only a small section of the lyrics that Cam was arrested for allegedly writing, and took them out of context to make rap metaphors sound like a real threat.”
A Threat to Society or an Innocent Flower?
After D’Ambrosio was arrested Methuen High officials confirmed that dozens of students complained to Methuen High School assistant principal James Weymouth about the violent nature of D’Ambrosio’s posts, and that they viewed them as threatening.
Lawrence District Court Judge Lynn Rooney ordered D’Ambrosio held on $1M bail at a Dangerousness Hearing. Judge Rooney said that she found the evidence against D’Ambrosio “very troubling” after reviewing police reports of a prior arrest, prior threats to students and probation reports.
Chief Joe Solomon said that D’Ambrosio faces up to 20 years for felony charges of communicating terrorist threats under MGL. Ch. 269, Section 14.
“I do want to make clear he did not make a specific threat against the school or any particular individuals but he did threaten to kill a bunch of people and specifically mentioned the Boston Marathon and the White House,’ Chief Solomon said on the day of D’Ambrosio’s arrest.
“The threat was disturbing enough for us to act and I think our officers did the right thing.”[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-wbJTHkdBMc&list=UUHvNZOou9CK-SsTZ_B3BjMg&index=220&h=320]