Free Speech Or Terroristic Threat? New York Rapper Jailed For Song

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ROCHESTER, NY (WXXI) – A Rochester rapper is at the center of a free speech debate because of a song he recorded that local law enforcement says amounts to a terroristic charge.

Rapper Randy Ross recorded and filmed the song “School Shooter” then posted it to YouTube in mid-February. He even include his alma mater, Greece Arcadia High School, in the video. He doesn’t specifically say he plans to shoot multiple students but does seem to threaten to show up at their lunch and shoot one student, according to song lyrics. He then states: “I beat the case- they ain’t know I was a school shooter” at the song’s conclusion.

He was arrested earlier this week, and was promoting his video on his social media pages until he was jailed. However, some local legal experts say his Constitutional rights are being violated because he has the right to free speech.

Chris Thomas is a partner at Rochester’s Nixon Peabody law firm. He says that the recent spate of mass shootings has caused law enforcement to clamp down but this case is more complicated than typical examples of free speech.

“In these days of school shootings, it’s no longer hypothetical and people are seeing these incredibly horrific matters and things take place and are starting to say ‘Well, what signs were sent?'” he said.

On Feb 14, Nikolas Cruz killed 17 people in a Parkland, Florida high school. Authorities later revealed Cruz posted on YouTube that he’d be a “professional school shooter” in advance of the shooting. That threat wasn’t taken seriously. Thomas says law enforcement are being more careful to ensure the next social media post doesn’t lead to another mass shooting.

But Ross’s case seems to be a little different. According to Thomas, music has more protection than typical free speech. Thomas, who does not represent Ross, says it’s likely his defense team will go that route.

“It’ll be interesting to see. That is what the defense will be but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the charge itself is defective. It doesn’t necessarily mean the police are wrong in bringing this charge against this defendant,” he said.

“It’s such a fascinating area of the law because it is always evolving,” said Thomas. “And it’s evolving because human perspectives evolve.”

Ross is expected in court on Friday.

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