CHESTERFIELD, Va. — At the request of Marine veteran Brandon Raub, attorneys for The Rutherford Institute are preparing to file a civil lawsuit in the near future against government officials who were involved in the arrest and detention of the 26-year-old Virginia resident, who was arrested by a swarm of FBI, Secret Service agents and local police on Aug. 16, 2012, and forcibly detained in a psychiatric ward from Aug. 16-Aug. 23 for posting controversial song lyrics and political views on his private Facebook page.
In challenging the government’s actions as unlawful and an egregious abuse of power, Institute attorneys hope to shed light on and put a stop to what appears to be a growing problem in terms of a governmental system seemingly targeting Americans—especially military veterans—for expressing their discontent about the state of affairs in America. Since coming to Raub’s defense, The Rutherford Institute has been contacted by military veterans across the country recounting similar incidents. (More than 20,000 civil commitments were carried out in 2011 in Virginia alone.) In announcing their intention to file a civil suit against government officials, Rutherford Institute attorneys plan to take issue with the manner in which Virginia’s civil commitment statutes are being used to silence individuals engaged in lawfully exercising their free speech rights. Under these laws, a person may only be involuntarily committed upon clear and convincing evidence that he or she has a mental illness, that there is substantial likelihood that the person will cause serious physical harm to himself or others in the near future, and that there is evidence of recent, actual behavior of causing, attempting, or threatening harm to others. Anthony Troy and Brian Fowler with Troutman Sanders LLP of Richmond, Va., will be acting as affiliate attorneys for The Rutherford Institute in preparation of the civil lawsuit.
“Brandon Raub’s case exposed the seedy underbelly of a governmental system that seems to be targeting Americans—especially military veterans—for expressing their discontent over America’s rapid transition to a police state,” said John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute. “As we are learning, Brandon Raub is not the first veteran to be targeted for speaking out against the government, detained against his will—despite having threatened no one, and isolated from his family, friends and attorneys. Hopefully, by holding officials accountable, we can ensure that Brandon is the last to suffer in this way.”
On Aug.16, 2012, Chesterfield police, Secret Service and FBI agents arrived at Brandon Raub’s home, asking to speak with him about his Facebook posts. Like many Facebook users, Raub, a Marine who has served tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, uses his Facebook page to post song lyrics and air his political opinions, as well as engage in virtual games. Without providing any explanation, levying any charges against Raub or reading him his rights, law enforcement officials handcuffed Raub and transported him to police headquarters, then to John Randolph Medical Center, where he was held against his will and beyond the time limits allowed. In a hearing on August 20, government officials pointed to Raub’s Facebook posts as the reason for his incarceration. Ignoring Raub’s explanations about the fact that the FB posts were being read out of context, a Special Justice sentenced Raub to up to 30 days’ further confinement. In coming to Raub’s defense, The Rutherford Institute, aided by Troutman Sanders attorneys, challenged the government’s actions as procedurally improper, legally unjustified, and in violation of Raub’s First Amendment rights. On August 23, Circuit Court Judge Allan Sharrett ordered Raub immediately released, noting that 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.”