Judge releases former Texas State student over FBI objections

It is sometimes difficult to make a distinction between behavior that is off-putting, upsetting or disturbing and behavior that is illegal. In November 2018, the FBI received a tip about a social media account making posts involving alleged hate speech, bomb-making and a desire to commit violence. An investigation traced the account to a 20-year-old former student of Texas State University. When the authorities caught up with the former student, he complied with their request to turn over his cell phone for analysis, which resulted in his arrest on child pornography charges.

At a bail hearing last week, FBI officials requested that the former student remain incarcerated, alleging that he has the potential to become the next bomber or mass shooter. However, the judge denied the request. Instead, he is sending the former student home to his parents and granting $75,000 unsecured bail. 

At one point, the 20-year-old enrolled as a student at Texas State University. However, on the first day of classes for the fall 2018 session, he dropped out of the university. On the same day, he also purchased a shotgun and a van, actions that an assistant U.S. attorney alleges could have been forerunners of violence. The former student claims that the social media posts that attracted the attention of federal authorities were part of an online fantasy, a bid for attention from other social media users, and that he had no intention of carrying out any acts of mass violence. 

The former student’s parents have promised to see that their son receives treatment for mental health. They claim that, though their son has a secretive side, he has always done well in school and generally been a “good kid.” They also claim to have been unaware of their son’s alleged online activities. 

Though denying the request of federal authorities to keep the former student locked up, the judge did seek to reasonably ensure the safety of the community by imposing numerous restrictions on him. The conditions of his release include electronic monitoring, mental health treatment and no access to the internet. 

Though the former student’s reported activities may have been disturbing, his attorney alleges that only the child pornography was illegal. Those facing the prospect of prosecution on federal charges may find it helpful to consult a knowledgeable attorney.