Georgia college student behind bars for Tumblr post

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GEORGIA – A college student has been languishing in jail for six months after posting what he says was joke on his Tumblr page.

Caleb Clemmons, an undergraduate at Georgia Southern University, made the comments on a satirical blog he created.

The 20-year-old, a psychology major on a scholarship, often wrote on Tumblr under the nickname “irenigg.” On February 8, he posted [sic]: “hello. my name is irenigg and i plan on shooting up georgia southern. pass this around to see the affect it has. to see if i get arrested.”

Almost immediately police were informed by an anonymous tip and a mere three hours later they searched Clemmons’ apartment. They did not find a weapon or any plans for any kind of an attack.

Still, he was arrested on a $20,000 bond and charged with issuing terrorist threats via computer. For six months he has been held at Bulloch County Jail because the bond was too high for his family to pay.

“Caleb has stated multiple times throughout his Tumblr and Facebook that his blog was an experimental literary piece and an art project for a character named Ryan Lang he created,” says a Change.org online petition drawing attention to the case.

“He went out of his way entertain his followers and friends with uncanny jokes as well as complex philosophical ideas.”

The petition also alleges the student has been verbally and physically assaulted on several occasions in prison.

He is scheduled to appear on August 20 in a Bulloch County courtroom for a plea calendar date, during which defendants have an opportunity to change pleas or accept bargains, for the judge to either approve or decline. Otherwise, a trial date will be set.

“He has been charged with terrorist threats,” Jack Williamson, the public defender assigned to the case, told theGrio. “In Georgia that is a felony crime and he can face up to five years in prison.

“He has been indicted and arraigned. He has entered a plea of not guilty. In my 35 years of practicing law this is my first time of having a case of this nature.”

Clemmons’ mother, Andrea Morris, has posted her own personal message on the Change.org petition:

“Caleb may have chosen the wrong time to post a prank, his present punishment and possible fate is beyond my comprehension. Caleb was attending a great college and had a promising future, despite a few setbacks.

“We are losing too many young black males to imprisonment and violence. My son was attempting to do something with his life, by attending college. He needs another chance at making things right.

“He has served six months in the Bulloch County jail, with a 20,000 dollar bond. I have heard of some murderers with a lesser bond.

“Enough is enough. Caleb has a little sister, 7, who misses her big brother. She wants him home. It hurts to hear her talk about how she misses him and talk about what they used to do and how he is a “nice brother.” Please help us get my son, grandson, big brother and friend released and free of charges. “

Though once again, this case highlights the dangers and pitfalls of posting inappropriate or foolhardy postings on unfiltered social networking sites, which can have negative and unforeseen consequences.

“While there certainly are cases where law enforcement officials seem to take matters to the extreme, members of society [whether they be youth, students or celebrities] must be cognizant and held accountable of actions that potentially impede on the sanctity, safety and peace of mind of others,” says Los-Angeles-based Treavion Davenport, a crisis management and PR expert.

“We are in a climate that is rightfully intolerant of threats, or insensitive jokes or experiments; regardless of the intent. This was a tough lesson learnt by the student in this case.”

TheGrio reached out to Georgia Southern and Casey Jones, the university’s assistant director for marketing and communications, who gave this official statement, “Georgia Southern University is unable to make any comments at this time.”

The petition, on Change.org, has so far garnered the support of nearly 4000 people.

A GoFundMe page set up to help Clemmons’ family pay for a lawyer has raised around $2,500 of its $5,000 target.

Follow Kunbi Tinuoye on Twitter at @Kunbiti

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