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  Justin Olsen: ‘Even if he beats this rap, serious harm has already been done’  
  Teenager Has Been In Jail Since Aug. 7 For Social Media Posts Lawyer Seeks To Overturn Federal Magistrate’s Detention Order:   September 12, 2019 Edition  
     BY JOHN A. DARNELL JR.
      associate editor
      Noted defense attorney J. Gerald Ingram has appealed a ruling by U.S. Magistrate George Limbert, ordering that 18-year-old Justin Olsen, of Boardman, remain in jail ‘to assure the safety of the community.’
      Olsen has been lodged in the Mahoning County Jail since Aug. 7 when he was arrested by federal law enforcement officers and Boardman police on charges of aggravated menacing of a law enforcement officer/federal agent, and telephone harassment. Those charges were dismissed by Judge Joseph Houser in Boardman Court in favor of a criminal complaint filed in United States District Court/Northern District of Ohio, in Cleveland, charging Olsen with one count of threatening to assault a federal law enforcement officer and one count of interstate communication of a threat (charges to which he has entered a not guilty plea).
      Olsen has been held without bail in the Mahoning County Jail since his arrest that stemmed from posts on social media that federal officials say made threats to their agents.
      The FBI began to investigate Olsen in early February, 2019 when the agency’s Achorage, Alaska office observed multiple internet postings that discussed supporting mass shooting and assault, and/or targeting Planned Parenthood.
      According to the federal criminal complaint, Olsen, under the banner of ‘ArmyofChrist,’ had a conversation on June 2 with another user regarding the 1993 siege in Waco, Texas about a religious sect, Branch Davidians. That conversation that concluded with a remark “Shoot every federal agent in sight,” that was attributed to Olsen.
      FBI agent Themistocles Tsarnas said he had reviewed posts made by ArmyofChrist that stated “...don’t comply with gun laws, stock up on stuff they could ban. In fact, go out of your way to break these laws, they’re fu....g stupid.”
      Another post referenced by Agent Tsarnas in the criminal complaint said “Hell, even the Oklahoma City bombing shows that armed resistance is a viable method of political change. There is no legal solution.”
      The criminal complaint suggests that Olsen’s ArmyofChrist showed a large increase in subscribers, reaching approximately 4,400 person by Mar. 18.
      The day before he was arrested, Agent Tsarnas met with Boardman Police Det. William Woods, who is assigned to the Mahoning Valley Violent Crimes Task Force, afterwhich Woods filed an affidavit seeking to search 465 Presidential Ct., where Olsen had lived with his mother.
      Woods detailed the use of ‘The Guardian Threat Tracking System,’ used by the FBI to tracks threats and other intelligence information that showed “how an 18-year-old Boardman resident, Justin Olsen, of 465 Presidential Ct., was the moderator of an online chat room and was posting threatening information.”
      Included in Woods’ affidavit was a notation that on June 3, Olsen posted a screen shot on a web site of an AR-15 (rfile) parts kit, and in which he said “he may purchase an AR-15 kit tommorow.”
      When Boardman Court Prosecutor Michael McBride reviewed this information, he agreed “that in light of recent mass shootings in the United States, we could not wait to act on this information,” Woods said, adding the prosecutor directed him to charge Olsen with telecommunications harassment and aggravated menacing.
      Judge Houser promptly issued a search warrant for 465 Presidential Ct. When Olsen could not be found there, law enforcement officials learned the teen had moved to his father’s residence at 724 Oakridge Dr., where he was arrested without incident.
      Woods said that Olsen admitted to making the online comments, but ‘they were only a joke.’
      At the father’s residence, law enforcement officials found and confiscated what one local law enforcement official told The Boardman News was a modest amount of guns (15) and ammunition (10,000 rounds).
      “Based upon the obviously terroristic-related rhetoric from ArmyofChrist, I beleieve that Justin Olsen is planning a terrorist attack in the United States...I know based upon the information received from the FBI, Olsen is using electronic devices to post his threats. I also know, because Olsen posted a picture of an AR-15 parts kit, that Olsen is using electronic devices to research potential weapons to be used during an attack,” Woods said in the affidavit for a search warrant.
      Atty. Ingram said he has never seen transcripts of the interview Officer Woods had with Olsen.
      In his appeal of the order of detention, Atty. Ingram says that Magistrate Limbert’s finding “that the evidence elicited at the detention hearing established by clear and convincing evidence that no condition, or combination of conditions, would reasonable assure the safety of the community if the defendant (was released from jail)” is “factually erroneous,” and his finding in favor of detention “is also erroneous.”
      Between Feb. 14 and Mar. 18, Atty. Ingram draws attention to two posts under the name of ArmyofChrist (when Olsen was 17-years-old)---
      On Feb. 14 an ArmyofChrist post showed a photograph of a man firing a machine gun with the caption “me walking to the nearest Planned parenthood,’ and another post stating “I would absolutely die to eradicate socialism and its variants.’
      Posts made by ArmyofChrist and reviewed by the Anchorage FBI on Mar. 18 showed an explosion in the background with the caption “me thanking God that they put the gay bar and Planned Parenthood right next to each other,” Atty. Ingram said, noting another post asserting that “bombing Planned Parenthood is noble, as is the killing of abortionists.”
      “The posts did not assert that [Olsen] planned to attack Planned Parenthood. From February to his arrest in August, he took no steps to damage a Planned Parenthood facility. The eradicate socialism post is simply not a threat, and many Americans would agree,” Atty Ingram said, while noting the post that ended in ‘shoot every federal agent in sight’ “is arguably the only post containing a threat for a federal law enforcement officer.”
      Defense counsel also points out “the government presented no evidence...that showed Justin Olsen in possession of a firearm,” and as well that Olsen never posted a video on how to make an AR-15...with a coat hanger, of promised in February, 2019.
      “There was no evidence that it is possible to make an AR-15...with a coat hanger,” Atty. Ingram said.
      Olsen had lived with his mother, Melanie, on Presidential Dr., until about two week’s before his arrest, instead had moved to his father’s home on Oakridge Dr.
      Olsen’s mother testified in court there were no weapons in her home, and also said she would not allow guns in her home.
      At the home of his father, Eric, police found and confiscated some 10,000 rounds of ammunition and more than a dozen guns.
      “Eric Olsen told law enforcement officers that all firearms, firearms paraphernalia and ammunition were his, and that he is a competitive shooter,” Atty. Ingram said, also noting that Justin said he did not have access to the gun safe.
      “Justin’s lack of access was confirmed by his father,” Atty. Ingram said, noting a motion-activated surveillance camera was positioned by a gun safe that, if activated, would send an Alert to Mr. Olsen’s phone.
      “Eric Olsen never received an alert that his son was attempting to gain access to his gun safe,” defense counsel said.
      He said no evidence had been elicited at the detention hearing before Magistrate Limbert that Olsen had ever taken steps or action to shoot federal agents.
      “The post about Waco and shooting federal agents was not sent to any identifiable law enforcement officer, was no sent to any identifiable law enforcement office, and there was no evidence that any federal law enforcement officer or office had been targeted,” Ingram pointed out.”
      Olsen graduated from Boardman High School in June with a 3.8 GPA, was a member of the tennis team, on member of three academic teams, and had never had a disciplinary infraction. In addition he was involved in a mentoring program to help individuals afflicted with Down Syndrome.
      “[Magistrate Limbert] did not give sufficient weight to [Olsen’s] lack of criminal record, his lack of a reputation for violence, and his positive school and social history,” Ingram said, while noting the magistrate “erred” in finding Olsen had access to weapons.
      “The uncontradicted testimony at the detention hearing was that [Olsen] did not have access to weapons, and that all weapons were securely locked in a monitored gun safe,” Atty. Ingram said.
      In refuting the magistrate, Atty. Ingram asked the court allow Olsen be released on a $20,000 unsecured bond to the custody of his mother, a licensed mental health counselor with no criminal history; and on the condition he be prohibited from accessing any online computer service, and consent to unannounced searches and examinations of his home and computer equipment
      * * * * * * * * * *
      To be certain, the few, inflammatory remarks on social media landed Justin Olsen in big trouble, and barely 18-year-old, he has been forced into incarceration in the Mahoning County Jail for his online remarks.
      His arrest has been news across America, and his ArmyofChrist site may have been instrumental in the arrest 19-year-old man in Chicago who made posts on social media threatening murder and slaughter at an abortion clinic.
      On a site called “Ammoland,” Jeff Knox, a second-generation political activist and director of The Firearms Coalition, penned a lengthy opinion on Olsen.
      “Today’s political and social climate is treacherous territory to navigate. It is so easy, through social media and the bubble that forms around particular groups, to throw out snide, incendiary, and downright mean comments, with little thought about how they might be perceived by people outside our bubbles, including people in law enforcement,” Knox says.
      He continues...“It might just be banter among friends,’ a group of like-minded folks snarking and crabbing about the events of the day, but to others... witty comments might be interpreted as threats and calls for violence.
      “A recent example highlights this danger. A young man in Ohio, named Justin Olsen, was commenting on things like gun control and the Waco tragedy, on a site called iFunny and a private chat site called Discord – both very popular sites, especially among teenage boys. Among his comments and memes, was a picture of some actor in a Hollywood movie blazing away with two guns simultaneously, with the text “Me walking into the nearest Planned Parenthood.” Other memes included a picture showing a mask and an AR-type rifle, with a caption encouraging people to republish the meme if they “would take liberty into your own hands.”
      “But the comment that seems to have gotten the 18-year old, recent high school graduate into serious trouble, came in the context of a conversation about the Waco Texas massacre. Olsen related a broadly inaccurate and simplistic description of the tragedy, to which the other person in the conversation commented that he had seen some documentaries about it, and that “it’s really unfortunate.”
      “To which Olsen replied, “In conclusion, shoot every federal agent on sight.”
      Knox points out “Whole parades of people calling for ‘dead cops’ go unchallenged and un-arrested?”
      “Based on what I have found and read in the criminal complaint filed against him, it appears that [Olsen is] being prosecuted for making the same sort of comments that might be seen pretty regularly under articles and in Twitter and Facebook posts. The only significant distinction I can see in this guy’s case is that his comments got flagged to authorities, while most similar comments just get deleted or ignored.
      “Unfortunately for Olsen, he happened to have been on the FBI’s radar at a moment when everyone from the President on down, is calling for someone to ‘do something’ to prevent mass shootings, and particularly, detect potential mass shooters early and interdict before they can carry out their plans.
      In conclusion, Knox says “This case, on the other hand, appears to be stretching out pretty far to try and make this kid look dangerous.
      “The important take-away though, is that online comments are permanent, and can be dangerous. We don’t need any more martyrs, and we don’t need to be using rhetoric that can be construed as threatening. I don’t know if this particular case is an example. But anti-rights extremists have long been employing a strategy of silencing their opponents by ‘flagging’ and ‘reporting’ comments, sites, channels, and pages, that they don’t agree with, to the administrators of popular social media sites, and they might have stepped that up to now include reporting such things to law enforcement as ‘threats.’
      “Justin Olsen’s whole life has probably been negatively impacted by what might be nothing more than bad jokes and some poor word choices. Even if he beats this rap, serious harm has already been done.
      “Don’t take chances. Be smart and be safe.”
 
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