The Lawrence Eagle Tribune posted a couple of articles concerning Cameron Dambrosio, the eighteen year old Methuen, Massachusetts High School student accused of posting terroristic threats on his Facebook page. Apparently Dambrosio's threats suggested that he wanted to kill people and engage in acts more significant than the recent marathon bombings. Dambrosio's home was searched and an Xbox and a computer were seized. Due to the nature of some of the threats involving the federal government as targets the FBI was notified about the case.
The case was first brought to the attention of Methuen authorities by students at Methuen High School who saw the Facebook posts. Consequently the police were notified. The posts were characterized as "alarming". Most of the threats were general. They were not directed towards anybody in particular. Bail was set in the amount of one million dollars. The case is currently pending in the Lawrence District Court where Dambrosio faces a felony charge of Communicating a Terrorist Threat.
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I imagine the statute under which Dambrosio is being prosecuted is Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 269 Section 14. The law as currently written was enacted in 2002, largely in response to the September 11, 2001 attacks. The portion of the law applicable to this case is subsection (c) which states that anyone who communicates a threat that causes serious public alarm is guilty of a felony. The punishment for a conviction of this offense is a minimum three year in state prison or a minimum six months in the county house of correction. If the case is prosecuted in the Superior Court there can be a maximum twenty year sentence imposed. Although this law is over ten years old there is only one case in Massachusetts interpreting this law and that case, Commonwealth v. Kern, 449 Mass. 641 (2007) focuses on a limited aspect of the statute. As a Massachusetts Criminal Lawyer one issue that may effect the direction of this case is the definition of the phrase "causing alarm" inherent in the statute. I find it somewhat amazing that with all the social media available to everybody today there is very little appellate litigation involving this statute.
What interests me most about this case is the blog comments posted beside the article in the Lawrence Eagle Tribune. Some suggest a First Amendment defense to this case. That is always an interesting defense to criminal cases. Rarely do lawyers use this type of defense. There are cases however and this might just be one of them where the right to free speech might be used successfully before a jury.
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