Digital

Is this America’s Twitter Joke Trial?

Pennsylvania high school student Torre Scrimalli could face prison after sending a joke tweet


A US high-school student could face a criminal conviction and up to 14 years in prison after posting a joke on Twitter.

In a case reminiscent of the UK’s now-infamous “Twitter Joke Trial”, Scrimalli, 18, of Scranton, Pennsylvania has been arrested for “terroristic threats” after joking ahead of a local schools basketball game on 4 February:

“If there is a Facebook or twitter fight tonight over the HC MV game I will just blow up the schools and students involved. #goonsquad.”

The game was stopped in the first quarter and the venue evacuated.

According to local news station WNEP-TV, Scrimalli apologised, saying: “I had no intentions on scaring anyone or bringing violence into this. It was supposed to be a harmless tweet. I realised what it was after I posted it and I tried to get it off as soon as I could but I guess it was just too late.”

But authorities are pressing ahead with charges. Local Assistant District Attorney Gene Riccardo is quote as saying “Two municipalities, two school districts have been impacted by that decision so that’s why we’re going forward with these charges.”

Scrimalli was been released on $20,000 bail after h turned himself over to police on Tuesday night. Classmates and friends on Twitter have rallied around the hashtag #PrayForTorre.

The case comes as the United States debates weapon laws in the wake of December’s Sandy Hook school massacre, when 20 children and six adults were killed by a lone gunman.

Hat tip – Matt F

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7 Comments

  1. Posted 07Feb13 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

    This seems to be a new and worrying trend in the US. You can’t make jokes referring to schools massacres it seems:

    http://cumming.patch.com/articles/middle-school-student-charged-with-terroristic-threats

    The crime of Making a Terrorist Threat appears to be overly broad and can in some jurisdictions include “threats” that are made negligently:

    http://www.legalmatch.com/law-library/article/making-a-terrorist-threat.html

  2. Posted 07Feb13 at 5:35 pm | Permalink
    Lad

    But authorities are pressing ahead with charges. Local Assistant District Attorney Gene Riccardo is quote as saying “Two municipalities, two school districts have been impacted by that decision so that’s why we’re going forward with these charges.”

    Um so some one is going to prison and persecuted coz you’re doing your job?

  3. Posted 07Feb13 at 6:27 pm | Permalink
    David

    Surely whoever ordered the evacuation is at least partly to blame. (Not that over-reaction should be a criminal offence…)

  4. Posted 07Feb13 at 9:11 pm | Permalink
    Stephanie

    We have Freedom of Speech in America, but that doesn’t mean we should throw common sense out the window. You should never publish a threat, even as a joke, on the internet. I hope he and others learn from this.

  5. Posted 08Feb13 at 12:32 am | Permalink
    MC

    Here in the UK, our guy got a fine (for jokingly threatening to blow up an airport on twitter after his flight as cancelled), and got it overturned on appeal. Your guy is looking at 14 years federal, essentially for embarrassing over-reactive officials. This is indicative of the root of what is wrong with the US, it has lost all sense of proportionality in seemingly every area of policy. That is why it is becoming a very, very dangerous state for those inside of it and those outside

    And Stephanie, youre a monster. I hope you get 10 years next time you drop litter in the street or overstay your parking by 5 minutes, that should learn ya gud right?

  6. Posted 08Feb13 at 11:04 am | Permalink

    To Stephanie: A joke is not a threat. A threat is meant to be taken seriously. The young man did not intend his remarks to be taken seriously. Indeed, he never dreamed they would be. The language supports its jokey nature, for example use of the word “just”. “I will just blow up the schools and students involved”. It is exaggerated for effect. The mistake that the kid made was not making it clear enough that he was joking. How can this be a crime worth 14 years?

    This was also not a hoax, because once again it was not intended to be taken seriously. The evacuation response represents an unreasonable reaction in the circumstances.

    The strength of the First Amendment shows very clearly through this description of the relevant laws: http://www.legalmatch.com/law-library/article/making-a-terrorist-threat.html

    Generally all 5 of those conditions must be met and there is a high threshold for proving intent.

  7. Posted 24Feb13 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

    So, terrorists are now announcing their intentions on Twitter with the hashtag #goonsquad? Well, that’ll make the FBI’s job a lot easier.

    Stupid, ridiculous over-reaction.

One Trackback

  1. By Joke of the Day « Ye Olde Soapbox on 08Feb13 at 11:00 pm

    [...] Is this America’s Twitter Joke Trial? (indexoncensorship.org) [...]

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