CHESTERFIELD, VA— In an unexpected ruling handed down today by Circuit Court Judge Allan Sharrett, the judge dismissed the government’s case against Brandon Raub, the Marine who was arrested by local police and FBI agents, detained in a psychiatric ward and forced to undergo psychological evaluations based solely on the controversial nature of lines from song lyrics, political messages and virtual card games which he posted to his private Facebook page. Judge Sharrett dismissed the petition for involuntary commitment on the grounds that the petition “is so devoid of any factual allegations that it could not be reasonably expected to give rise to a case or controversy.” Raub is expected to be released immediately.
“This is a great victory for the First Amendment and the rule of law,” said John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute. “Brandon Raub was arrested with no warning, targeted for doing nothing more than speaking out against the government, detained against his will, and isolated from his family, friends and attorneys. These are the kinds of things that take place in totalitarian societies. Today, at least, Judge Allan Sharrett proved that justice can still prevail in America.”
Brandon Raub, a former Marine who has served tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, was detained by FBI agents and police officers at his home in Chesterfield County based upon the nature of content posted to his Facebook page in recent months. Like many Facebook users, Raub uses his Facebook page to post song lyrics and air his political opinions, as well as engage in virtual online games with other users. On Thursday, August 16, 2012, police and FBI agents arrived at Raub’s home, asking to speak with him about his Facebook posts. They did not provide Raub with a search warrant. Raub was cooperative and agreed to speak with them. Without providing any explanation, levying any charges against Raub or reading him his rights, law enforcement officials then handcuffed Raub and transported him first to the police headquarters, then to John Randolph Medical Center, where he was held against his will due to alleged concerns that his Facebook posts were “terrorist in nature.” Outraged onlookers filmed the arrest and posted the footage to YouTube.
In a hearing before Special Justice Walter Douglas Stokes on August 20, government officials again pointed to Raub’s Facebook posts as the sole reason for their concern and for his continued incarceration. Ignoring Raub’s explanations about the fact that the FB posts were being read out of context and his attorney’s First Amendment defense, Stokes sentenced the former Marine to up to 30 days’ further confinement in a psychiatric ward and signed a court order for Raub’s involuntary admission to the Veterans Hospital in Salem. In coming to Raub’s defense, attorneys for The Rutherford Institute challenged the actions of Chesterfield County, Va. as procedurally improper, legally unjustified, and in violation of Raub’s First Amendment rights. Institute attorneys appeared before the Circuit Court on August 23 to request that Raub be transferred back to John Randolph Medical Center while Institute attorneys attempted to secure his release. However, Judge Allan Sharrett declared the government’s case to be lacking in factual allegations and ordered Raub immediately released.
Anthony Troy and Brian Fowler, attorneys with Troutman Sanders LLP, were instrumental in assisting The Rutherford Institute to secure Raub’s release.