The interrelationship between the virtual world and the real one continues to get more pervasive and complex in everyday life. A 15-year-old boy in Louisiana who says he was tired and frustrated from being bullied created a virtual mass shooting from a mobile game app to make it appear that he was gunning down his high school classmates. Now he faces criminal charges and must prepare a criminal defense.
The boy posted the “mass shooting” on YouTube. A parent saw the clip and notified police. The police apprehended the teen and arrested him for terrorizing and interference of the operation of a school. The defendant reportedly said that he did it to back at students who were bullying him, but did not want to hurt anyone. The YouTube video has since been taken down.
Since he did not intend to hurt anyone and was acting purely from an internal mental set generated by fantasy and daydreams, one defense that he might present is lack of criminal intent. To be guilty of a crime, an accused must intend to commit a crime. In this case, it’s difficult to say that the boy actually intended to take any action other than the action of venting his frustrations in the YouTube production.
Of course he cannot be accused of using good judgment but in adolescence that is standard fare. It is a difficult problem for society to distinguish between creative expressions of frustration against school mates and truly malicious criminality that is brewing a pattern that will lead to action. Since the boy is a juvenile under Louisiana law, his best bet for a criminal defense may be to have his counsel resolve the case informally with a form of juvenile probation that will serve to keep him under supervision as well as requiring counseling to further his personal emotional growth.
Source: WEAR ABC Channel 3, Louisiana teen arrested for “Virtual Mass Shooting”, No author, Sept. 13, 2013