Civil Liberties Organization Sues on Behalf of Marine Jailed, Committed to VA Psychiatric Ward for Facebook Post

Posted by Jason Van Steenwyk

Marine jailed for Facebook postsThe Rutherford Institute, a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving civil liberties, has filed suit against the Government on behalf of a Marine veteran who was jailed and then involuntarily committed to a VA psychiatric hospital for posts he wrote on his Facebook page.

According to the Rutherford Institute, a team of police, FBI agents and Secret Service personnel came to the home of Brandon Raub, then 26, near Richmond, Virginia, and asked to speak with him about the content he was posting on his Facebook account. He had been posting a lot of song lyrics, politics content, and items that suggested that the U.S. Government itself had masterminded the attacks on 9/11. For example, he posted a photograph of the damage to the Pentagon in the aftermath of the attack, with the caption, “where’s the plane?,” suggesting that the Pentagon was struck by a missile, not by a passenger jet.

Again, according to the Rutherford Institute and contemporary news accounts, the agents asked him to step outside, and without explanation nor charges, nor did they read him his rights at the time of the arrest, part of which was captured on cell phone video.

Raub was taken to the police station, and from there transported to the psychiatric ward of a local VA Medical Center, where he was held against his will until he received a hearing. Virginia law allows physicians to hold individuals in psychiatric institutions involuntarily for a period of time if they believe they may be a danger to themselves or other people. A magistrate reviews the involuntary hold in a few days to ensure that there is a rational legal basis for the hold.

Meanwhile, his mother, Cathleen Thomas, was able to get on Facebook herself to generate publicity and get attorneys to work on Raub’s behalf.

Raub received a hearing before the magistrate four days after his arrest, on August 20th. At that hearing, law enforcement officers told the magistrate that his controversial Facebook posts were the sole reason for the hold. Among the posts that law enforcement found troubling were the lines, “sharpen up my axe and I’m back/ it’s time to sever heads.” This post and others in that vein had caused others who saw the Facebook posts to report him to authorities. Raub countered that his posts were actually song lyrics, or dialogue from an online card game, and law enforcement officials were reading them out of context. The axe quote above is indeed from the lyrics to a song called “Bring Me Down” from a band called Swollen Member. However, the judge ruled against Raub, and ordered him to be held involuntarily for another 30 days. Officials also ordered him transferred to a facility some three hours away from his legal team and his family.

At that point, Raub’s attorneys, provided to him by the Rutherford Institute, appealed to the court system for his release. On August 23rd, a judge threw the case out, ruling that there was no factual basis to detain Raub, and ordered him released immediately.

The judge found that the paperwork used to send police to Raub’s door contained “no facts,” that Raub was not informed of the reason for his detention as required by law, and that the charging sheet contained a signature but not even an allegation of a crime. The affidavit detaining Raub, the judge ruled, was “so devoid of any factual allegations that it could not be reasonably expected to give rise to a case or controversy.”

Raub, with the support of the Rutherford Institute is now suing the government for false imprisonment, denial of due process and unlawful search and seizure. He filed the suit last week, personally suing Daniel Bowen and Russell Granderson, both Chesterfield County law enforcement officers, as well as Michael Campbell, a licensed psychotherapist, and social worker Lloyd Chaser and LaTarsha Mason, according to the Chesterfield Observer.

Among the complaints: The therapist who advocated detaining Raub had not even met him.

The complaint also alleges that a special Department of Homeland Security program, called Operation Vigilant Eagle, contributed to Raub’s unlawful incarceration. Vigilant Eagle is ostensibly intended to help law enforcement prevent ‘lone wolf’ terrorist attacks. However, the DHS put special emphasis on returning Afghanistan and Iran veterans as potential risks for terrorist attacks.


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