Sunday, August 26, 2012

Raub Released

I mentioned a few days ago Brandon J. Raub, a Marine veteran whose remarks posted to his Facebook page caused some alarm, leading to his hospitalization for psychiatric observation.  A Virginia circuit court judge has ordered his release.  According to this August 23, 2012 Business Insider report, the statute under which he was detained had requirements that were not met:
Chesterfield police stated that they "took Raub into custody for evaluation in accordance with Virginia State Code § 37.2-808 Emergency custody."

But according to Va. Code § 37.2-808, a person in emergency custody may only be held for four hours unless a magistrate enters a temporary detention order (TDO)  during that time.
Raub's lawyers argue that since the magistrate entered the order more than eight hours after he was taken into custody, the District Court "lacked any basis (much less clear and convincing evidence) to conclude that Raub (i) has a mental illness, and (ii) that there was a substantial likelihood that, as a result of such mental illness, Raub will, in the near future, cause serious physical harm to others, as Va. Code 37.2-817 specifically requires."
It appears that the successful appeal involved both a procedural defect, and a claim that Raub was not mentally ill, or a threat to others.  Either would be sufficient to get him released.  What concerns me is that the lawyer representing Raub on this also is reported as claiming:
every year in Virginia more than 20,000 people are committed under similar circumstances and "that means a lot of people are disappearing" under the pretext of mental illness.
They aren't "disappearing."  Raub didn't disappear.  He was able to call friends and family and ask for their help, which he received.

Now, there is some real question as to whether Raub was a threat or not, or mentally ill, or not.  Some of the news accounts of what Raub had posted sounded a little worrisome, but not necessarily "clear and convincing evidence" of mental illness.  I understand the concern of civil libertarians.  I also understand the concerns that led to Raub's detention.  The FBI spokesperson pointed out:
"We received quite a few complaints about what were perceived as threatening posts," she said. "Given the circumstances with the things that have gone on in the country with some of these mass shootings, it would be horrible for law enforcement not to pay attention to complaints."
There is some question as to how Raub's comments came to the attention of the FBI.  The FBI says that the concerns came from members of the public, but this August 21, 2012 CBS DC report says:
Whitehead [Raub's attorney] said some of the posts in question were made on a closed Facebook page that Raub had just created and that had only three members, so he questioned whether anyone from the public would have complained about them.
Unless, of course, one of those three members of the closed Facebook page knew Raub well enough to be concerned about what he was saying.

Perhaps local police, the FBI, and the Secret Service were too zealous in their actions.  None of the statements that I have seen quoted have actually crossed the line into an overt statement that Raub was planning violence.  Unfortunately, because a number of mass murderers in recent years have made  statements on the web that in retrospect were indicators of serious mental illness problems, I can see why Raub's statements might have provoked the concerns that they did.


  1. "... may only be held for four hours unless a magistrate ...": why would lawmakers settle on a period as short as four hours?

    I speak from ignorance, but wouldn't twenty-four hours be wiser? It would at least let the fellow have a decent sleep, or sober up, or whatever else might help clarify whether or not he's potentially a menace.

  2. The Rauhauser/beandogs/kimberlin axis demonstrate how a lot of paper can be built up against an individual and the unjust consequences that can follow.

    My understanding is that it is unusual for a judge to react this early in the process and the rejection of the government's arguments were unusually severe. Neither you nor I have all the evidence before us. I take my cues from the judge's behavior. You seem to not be doing so. Why?

  3. Dearieme: Any number is arbitrary on this. It seems like four hours is awfully short, but it does require use of such a hold involve pretty well thought use.

    TMLutas: I actually was very careful not to take a stand on the circuit judge's decision. My reference to "None of the statements that I have seen actually crossed the line" was an acknowledgement that the circuit judge is likely right, but I am not prepared to assume that bad intentions or political oppression was the motivation.

  4. On the note of the closed facebook page: Facebook privacy settings are not always what they appear to be. I know that a lot of what I post can often be seen by others due to people commenting or liking them.

    There is no real privacy on Facebook.

  5. The biggest challenge to increasing our commitment rates to take dangerously mentally ill off the streets is exactly this scenario, non-ill individuals taken out of their homes and committed on flimsy evidence that doesn't pass a judge's laugh test. Fix this and we have fewer homeless mentally I'll, less street crime, and a better quality of life for those who are now falling through the system's cracks.

  6. Raub was held on an emergency hold. This is not strictly a commitment (which has additional legal disabilities, especially with respect to firearms possession). Even the strictest of states, such as California and Oregon, are surprisingly unstrict on emergency holds such as this.