“Bein’ a idiot is no box of chocolates,” says the title character in Winston Groom’s 1986 novel “Forrest Gump.” Bein’ a idiot is no crime, either.
But when one’s particular form of idiocy involves making threats to outdo the Boston Marathon bombings, to go insane and make the news and beat any murder charge against him ... well, that’s a different box of chocolates altogether.
Methuen police last week arrested 18-year-old Cameron B. Dambrosio and charged him with communicating a terrorist threat. Police say the Methuen High student posted on his Facebook page that he would outdo the marathon bombings that killed three and left more than 200 wounded.
“(Expletive) the Boston bombing, wait til you see what I do. I’m going to be famous,” police Chief Joseph Solomon said Dambrosio wrote. “And (Dambrosio wrote) he’s going to beat every murder charge brought against him.”
Solomon said Dambrosio also posted comments about the White House and the federal government. Solomon said those comments were forwarded to the FBI.
At his arraignment in Lawrence District Court Thursday morning, Dambrosio was ordered held without bail. A probable cause hearing has been scheduled for May 9.
The charge against Dambrosio is serious indeed. Making a terroristic threat is a felony with a prison sentence of between three and 20 years, according to state law.
So is Dambrosio a terrorist whose plans were nipped in the bud? Or is he merely a stupid kid who does not understand the consequences of what he says and writes.
Who can say with certainty?
We live in a country on edge. In recent years, young men of Dambrosio’s age have gone on killing sprees in schools and movie theaters. Less than a month ago, two young Chechen immigrants, whose family had been showered with state welfare benefits, repaid the public’s generosity by exploding bombs at the finish of the Boston Marathon.
In some cases, after these kinds of horrific events, a Facebook page or other documentation is found that outlines the killer’s intentions.
So how could we expect the Methuen police, having learned of Dambrosio’s alleged threats, to ignore them? What if they did and Dambrosio later carried them out?
Yes, Dambrosio, like every other American, has the protection of the First Amendment guaranteeing his freedom of speech. But limits on free speech have long been established in law. The Supreme Court ruled in 1919 that First Amendment protections do not extend, using the analogy of Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., to a person falsely shouting “Fire!” in a crowded theater. Nor does anyone have the right to threaten someone verbally with death.
Let an investigation and the justice system run its course. If there is any credibility to Dambrosio’s threats, let him be put on trial and, if convicted, sent to prison for a long time.
If there is nothing to the threats, then let Dambrosio’s short time in a jail cell serve as a lesson on the consequences of idiocy.