PORT HAWKESBURY, N.S. — A Cape Breton teen has been charged with making death threats entirely on the basis of sarcastic lyrics of a song he posted on Facebook, says his lawyer, who argues the case does not meet the test of a Criminal Code threat.
Nelson Fletcher Rudderham, 18, of Inverness, was arrested March 22 after RCMP said they investigated a report of threats posted on a social media site against students and staff of Inverness Education Centre Academy.
Rudderham was later charged with uttering death threats.
Defence lawyer Kevin Patriquin maintains his client simply posted a song to a social media site, which police allege constitutes the threat.
"It was a song," Patriquin said in an interview on Tuesday. "It wasn't intended to be taken seriously and that's essentially it."
Patriquin said Rudderham even went so far as to indicate on the site that the song was meant to be sarcastic.
"I don't think it meets the test of a Criminal Code threat. Whether or not the school authorities should be concerned and take their own discipline, that's another matter."
A song posted on Rudderham's Facebook page, "They Call Me D---head," includes the following lyric: "I just got f---ed out of an education. A school shooting right now sounds like bliss in a single situation."
Said Patriquin: "I can confirm that based on the information I received that song you found on his social site is the basis of the threat charge."
Rudderham was released with strict conditions following a court appearance in Port Hawkesbury on March 23.
According to court documents he is to stay at home 24 hours a day, seven days a week, but can leave for such things as medical emergencies or appointments with doctors or his lawyer.
He can also travel to job interviews or a paid job, but must advise police in advance. Rudderham is also banned from entering any school property operated by the Strait Regional School Board and is prohibited from possessing weapons and consuming alcohol and illicit drugs.
Patriquin said he will attempt to get the bail conditions varied during a court hearing on Wednesday because Rudderham's trial is four months away. It is scheduled to begin Aug. 30.
Patriquin said he represents a young person with no previous criminal record.
"I don't want him to essentially serve a penalty which would be worse than if he maybe pled guilty and dealt with it, or to serve a penalty that would be worse than if he's found not guilty."
Neither the RCMP nor the Crown would talk about the specifics of the case.
But Patriquin wonders whether in general someone would be prosecuted for a Facebook post that doesn't specifically mention individuals, institutions, places or things.
"If somebody is concerned about it does that mean a criminal offence has occurred? That's the question I have to deal with."
Rudderham has pleaded not guilty.
— By Keith Doucette in Halifax
The Canadian Press