Common sense dictates that you can't scream "fire!" in a crowded movie theater and that doing so isn't considered protected speech. In the wake of the recent Ohio school shootings, making public jokes about shooting up your local high school also falls under the purview of widely held common sense doctrine. We are in the age where it is a dangerous proposition to post comments on social networks like Facebook about "going on shooting sprees." You would think that no one would be foolhardy enough to do such a thing, but two men have found out the hard way that joking around online could be considered a serious crime.
Two Attleboro, Rhode Island men have learned the hard way that posting threatening language and invoking "Columbine" on Facebook can get you sent to jail. The two men said that their comments on Facebook was just a joke gone awry, and fueled (they claim) by a game of Call of Duty on Xbox Live. A close friend of the former Attleboro high students, Ryan Gomes, also claims it was all just a joke using lingo common in Call of Duty online play.
"It was a joke gone wrong it was a bad joke gone wrong," he told WLNE ABC 6. He says that the two men, 20-year-old Ryan Ringuette and 18-year-old Natick Sands, were playing Call of Duty when Sands posted his first comment.
Sands wrote on his Facebook wall:
"people wonder why I talk about mass killing sprees all the time, FED UP".
Gomes says that the mass killing sprees Sands referred to was a reference to Call of Duty.
"It was something about a mass killing spree, well that's what it's called in the video game when you kill three of four people it's called a killing spree," said Gomes.
Ringuette followed up Sands' comments by writing: "I'm with you," adding that it was "Columbine over again."
The Facebook comments go on to target Attleboro High School and the school resource officer, but Gomes says that "someone got scared and said something but it was a joke."
But local law enforcement didn't find it very amusing and arrested both men. It's not clear what the exact charges were either, but we do know that a judge gave them each $7,500 bail, ordered them not to use social media and required that both get mental health evaluations. Both were also charged with violation of probation – for some previous and undisclosed crimes. Neither could afford to pay bail and are currently at the Dartmouth House of Corrections.
The duo return to court March 19. You can check out a news report on this story below: