An upstate New York grand jury decided on March 9 that rapper Randy Ross, 23, did not make any real threats in his “School Shooter” video, returning a “no bill” decision and determining he had not committed a crime.
Ross had been facing charges of making “terroristic threats.” Call this one a bad idea, in really poor taste, and nothing more.
The rapper was arrested February 26, nearly two weeks after the shooting in Parkland, Florida, for a video he posted on YouTube that included the lyrics “I lay ’em down like a school shooter” and featuring footage outside at least one high school near Rochester, New York. He told police at the time he’d written the song months ago but was looking to “capitalize” on the national discussion about gun control and violence after 17 people were killed.
Since his arrest, the video has been viewed more than 28,000 times on YouTube. It was never pulled down.
Immediately, Ross began questioning whether he was protected under the First Amendment, which protects speech but does have limits when it comes to language that could incite public harm.
On Friday, the grand jury returned with a “no bill” decision, meaning he would not be indicted on any crime. As an attorney told a Buffalo CBS affiliate station, “Songs, generally, are protected. Songs are a basis of communication. He’s trying to communicate an idea.”
In a statement, Greece Police Chief Pat Phelan said that while the police department is “disappointed and disagree with the decision, we also respect the legal process that led to that result. We believe it was a proper charge and stand by your decision to make this arrest in this case.”
Ross’ attorney, Mark Young, felt confident this would be the outcome and, in an unusual turn, had Ross speak directly to the jurors to explain his actions. Turns out, he was right.
“It wasn’t a case,” Young told David Andreatta of the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle. “They rushed to judgement here where they shouldn’t have.” He also suggested there might be room for Ross to pursue legal recourse against the Greece police for arresting him when he did not commit a crime.
Ross was released from jail Friday afternoon.