Massachusetts teen accused of Facebook terror post freed

BOSTON, June 7 (Reuters) - A Massachusetts teenager jailed a month ago for a Facebook post that suggested he could do worse than the Boston Marathon bombers was released, a court official said on Friday, after a grand jury refused to indict him.

Cameron D’Ambrosio was arrested on May 1 and accused of “communicating a terrorist threat.” The 18-year-old aspiring rapper from Methuen, 30 miles (50 km) north of Boston, posted lyrics online that included the words “a boston bombinb wait till u see the shit I do.”

The case sparked a viral online effort by rights activists to have him freed, and demonstrated the growing tension between law enforcement and free speech proponents after a spate of terror and school-violence incidents across the country.

Lawrence District Court Judge Lynn Rooney issued an order on Thursday to release D’Ambrosio after a grand jury chose not to indict, the court clerk’s office said. An official at the county prosecutor’s office was not available to comment.

“While today is a major victory for Cam, the chilling effect that this case has already had on free speech cannot be undone,” said Evan Greer, of Boston’s Center for Rights and Fight For The Future, which organized an online petition supporting D’Ambrosio that gathered 90,000 signatures.

Police had arrested D’Ambrosio after fellow students at Methuen High School alerted them of his Facebook posts. If D’Ambrosio had been convicted of the terrorism charge, he would have faced as many as 20 years in prison.

The case came weeks after twin bombs exploded at the finish line of the Boston Marathon on April 15, killing three people and injuring 264. Investigators said the attack was the work of two brothers of Chechen descent.

Some lawmakers have criticized the FBI’s handling of the case, given that the older of the brothers, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, had been on a U.S. master list of potential terrorism suspects. Tamerlan was killed in a shootout with police days after the bombing and his younger brother Dzhokhar was wounded after a manhunt and is in prison for the crime.

Police are also under pressure to avoid a repeat of recent school shootings, including the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut last year in which 20 students and six school staff were killed.

“Law enforcement wants to preempt acts of violence before they occur,” said Shirin Sinnar, assistant professor of law at Stanford University Law School. “The risk is that you sweep in people who had no intent to cause a crime.”