Ex-Marine Brandon Raub was incarcerated and forced to undergo a psychological evaluation after he posted comments on social media which criticised the American government.
“This case was about more than one Marine’s right to not be targeted for speaking out against the government,” said John W. Whitehead, president of the Rutherford Institute, who represented Raub in his fight over his 2012 detention.
“It was about whether Americans have the freedom to criticize the government without being labeled ‘domestic extremists’ and stripped of their rights,” he said.
“Unfortunately, in refusing to hear this case, the Supreme Court has left us all vulnerable to the possibility that we can be declared mentally unfit, handcuffed, arrested and locked up against our will simply for exercising our right to speak truth to power,” he said.
Raub was decorated for his service, which included tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Returning home, he used his Facebook page to post song lyrics and his political opinions. Among other things, he called for the arrests of federal officials.
On Aug. 16, 2012, “Chesterfield police, Secret Service and FBI agents arrived at Raub’s home, asked to speak with him about his Facebook posts, and without providing any explanation, levying any charges against Raub or reading him his rights, handcuffed Raub and transported him to police headquarters, then to a medical facility, where he was held against his will for psychological evaluation and treatment,” Rutherford said.
When his case got the attention of Circuit Court Judge Allan Sharrett, he ordered Raub’s immediate release, stating the government’s case was “so devoid of any factual allegations that it could not be reasonably expected to give rise to a case or controversy.”
But he already had been locked up a week.
Rutherford attorneys filed their lawsuit against the government in May 2013, challenging their actions as procedurally improper and legally unjustified.
Court documents confirmed state and federal prosecutors – at the time Raub was snatched by police – found there were no grounds for criminal charges against him.
At issue was the behavior of the mental-health screener, Michael Campbell, who allegedly failed to exercise reasonable professional judgment in wrongly concluding Raub was mentally ill and dangerous, violating Raub’s Fourth Amendment rights.
“They were concerned about me calling for the arrest of government officials,” Raub told the Richmond Times Dispatch in a phone call from his hospital bed at the time.
Raub accused the government of lying about 9/11 and spoke of “starting a revolution,” mere words he had taken no steps toward carrying out, according to his attorneys. Raub said he doesn’t even own a gun.
The appellate court noted Raub never threatened violence, and he was detained on orders from Campbell after only an interview by Campbell of officers who had talked with Raub.
“Whether it’s a Marine arrested for criticizing the government on Facebook or an ex-husband jailed for expressing his frustrations through rap lyrics on Facebook, the end result is the same – the criminalization of free speech,” said Whitehead.
In coming to Raub’s aid, Rutherford Institute attorneys challenged the government’s actions as a violation of Raub’s First and Fourth Amendment rights.
In February 2014, a U.S. District Court judge dismissed the lawsuit, rejecting concerns of government suppression of dissident speech as “far-fetched.”
Rutherford said that on appeal to the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, its attorneys “claimed that the Chesterfield County mental health screener who recommended Raub’s seizure and commitment failed to exercise reasonable professional judgment in wrongly determining that Raub was mentally ill and dangerous, and that Raub’s seizure and detention were the result of a mental health screener’s dislike of Raub’s ‘unpatriotic’ views on federal government misconduct, thereby violating the ex-Marine’s First Amendment right to freedom of speech. The appeals court subsequently affirmed the lower court judgment.”