Write a Story - Go To Jail

by ignored_one 11 Replies latest social current

  • Frannie Banannie
    Frannie Banannie

    All I can say is WATCH OUT, STEPHEN KING, DEAN KOONTZ and other chiller writers!!!!! You can now be arrested and go to prison for your novels....

    Frannie B

  • ignored_one

    The follow up:


    Teen's Felony Case Thrown Out

    By Kim Zetter

    Story location: http://www.wired.com/news/conflict/0,2100,60267,00.html

    02:00 AM Sep. 03, 2003 PT

    The case of an Oklahoma teen who was charged with a felony for writing a violent short story about attacking his school has been dismissed by a judge who ruled that prosecutors failed to prove the teen actually intended to commit the act.

    Citing a lack of evidence showing malicious intent, Judge William Hetherington issued his ruling Friday afternoon, bringing to close a case that has sparked controversy over its free speech implications.

    Now, after tens of thousands of dollars spent fighting the charge, Brian Robertson is free, but the accusation that he broke the law will stay with him. Under Oklahoma law, if a case carries on for more than a year, a felony charge remains on the defendant's record, even if the case is dismissed. The felony gets expunged from the record only if the defendant is acquitted following a trial.

    As reported on Wired News two weeks ago, Robertson was charged in April 2001 with a felony count of "planning to cause serious bodily harm or death" after a teacher at his Moore, Oklahoma, high school discovered a short story that Robertson had written on a classroom computer. Titled "Evacuation Orders," (PDF) the story described plans for an attack on the school that involved shooting a principal and blowing up the school.

    Robertson, who plans to study journalism in college, called the writing a work of fiction. He said he found the first paragraph of the story on the school computer and simply began writing where the original writer had left off.

    But despite a lack of evidence indicating the story was more than the product of his imagination, Robertson, then 18, was suspended from school for a year and arrested.

    He and his family have spent the last year and a half fighting the felony charge with their defense attorney, Sara McFall, and lawyers from the American Civil Liberties Union. Last December a judge dismissed the case, arguing that the Oklahoma statute used to prosecute Robertson was too vague and broad. But the prosecutor successfully appealed to reinstate it.

    The statute was passed in 2001 in response to school shootings across the United States. McFall and lawyers from the ACLU argued that the law was unconstitutional since it criminalized violent forms of speech and thought regardless of intent.

    Hetherington wrote in his ruling that to convict someone "for merely drafting a plan of violence and nothing more, would clearly violate First Amendment privileges."

    "There must be some showing of malicious intent ... (but) the state offers nothing more than the written plan," he concluded.

    McFall, Robertson's attorney, said the tipping point in the case came when Robertson's mother uncovered new evidence last week that proved he didn't write the story's initial paragraph. After searching for the first sentence in Google, Kathy Robertson discovered the paragraph was part of a template that came on a CD-ROM for an Adobe PageMaker textbook.

    "If the judge ever felt threatened by Brian Robertson as a dangerous student, this made it obvious that the writing was just an exercise in creativity," she said.

    Kathy Robertson, Brian's mother and a former teacher herself, said her son's case changed her views of zero tolerance, a policy many schools have adopted in recent years that encourages harsh treatment of kids who bring weapons to school or make violent threats.

    "Before Brian's case I was middle of the road, but now I see how harmful it can be when kids are put through something like this for minimal infractions," she said.

    Robertson, who launched a website to publicize her son's case in April, said she would not have become so involved in fighting the charge if it hadn't been reinstated last December.

    "I was happy to sit back and let things happen, thinking that it would never get to the trial stage," she said. "But after the judge overturned the decision to throw out the case, that's when I got angry."

    After the story was published on Wired News in August, traffic on Robertson's website spiked to more than 23,000 monthly visitors. Previously, the most visitors it received in a month was 1,200.

    Readers from around the world posted comments on the site. Many were critical of the Oklahoma law. As one reader from New Zealand wrote, "Another failure for independence in 'the land of the free' ... I'm delighted to live in a country where normal sanity prevails."

    Brian Robertson said he was grateful for the outpouring of support, especially after others had turned away from him because of the case. After local news stations broadcast his booking photo and likened him to a terrorist, Robertson said, people began to avoid him and he lost a job as a result of the negative publicity.

    "The support showed me that people are out there who cared and who shared similar views," he said.

    He added, "I can't believe I can finally get on with my life."

    Eventually, Robertson hopes to find a way to expunge the felony charge from his record. He also would like to find a way to overturn the Oklahoma law itself.

    But for now he's just happy to be thinking about other things for a change.

    "A weight has been lifted off of my shoulders," he said.

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    Ignored One.

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