‘Gross Miscarriage of Justice’: Legislation Aims to Fix Law After Student Charged with Terror Threats Over Rifle Picture
Republican lawmakers in the state of Michigan held a press conference on Tuesday in Lansing to announce new legislation that was crafted in response to the Lucas Gerhard case.
Big League Politics broke the story weeks ago of how the 20-year-old criminal justice student was kicked out of Lake Superior State University, charged with making terror threats, and imprisoned for 83 days because he posted a picture of a rifle on Snapchat that triggered a leftist female on campus.
Rep. John Reilly of Lake Orion has led the charge in creating awareness of the case and has devised legislation to stop prosecutorial abuse of this magnitude from happening again.
“When I first ran for office, I never thought I would be here today introducing legislation to explain the difference between a joke and a terror threat,” Reilly said. “I never thought our society was so fragile that someone’s life could be ruined by telling a joke among friends.”
He explained that Gerhard’s intent did not matter, whether he meant snow or he meant that he was going to trigger some left-wing snowflakes was irrelevant. It is Gerhard’s 1st Amendment right as a free American to express himself as he wishes.
“This case sits at the nexus of 1st Amendment rights, 2nd Amendment rights, campus culture, cancel culture, privacy, due process of law, and the weaponizing of the criminal justice system,” Reilly said.
Reilly mentioned that this legislation would likely be the first in a series of bills to address constitutional abuses, particularly on college campuses, which have grown even more hostile toward conservatives since President Trump’s election in 2016.
House Bill 5483 would make the statute pertaining to terror threats applicable only when a specific violent threat is made toward an individual or property. The threat will also have to come from the individual or an agent of the individual, rather than an unrelated third party. The legislation would also institute a reasonable listener standard so that opportunistic prosecutors could not make an example of someone like Gerhard for political purposes.
“I hope people are noticing who and what is driving the effort to make it dangerous to speak freely,” Reilly explained. “I am a politician. I signed up to be publicly attacked, and I’m fine with that, but Lucas Gerhard was a student with every expectation that the university that he was undoubtedly paying a huge amount of money to attend was going to treat him honorably, help him succeed in defending his rights, and stand up for free speech for all by supporting him when his rights were attacked. But no, the total opposite happened.”
Reilly was joined at the press conference by Lucas’ father Mark, a retired Marine Colonel who works for the federal government; Rep. Beau LaFave, the state legislator from Marquette who represents Michigan’s upper peninsula where Gerhard used to go to school; and Tom Lambert, the President of Michigan Open Carry.
“While this is playing out in real time, the school wasn’t seeing this as a general public safety concern,” Mark Gerhard said. “It was only afterwards when they decided that they were going to pursue this along with the prosecutor.”
“This is a gross miscarriage of justice,” LaFave said. “This shouldn’t happen to you, Lucas. You’re a nice guy. You didn’t do anything wrong for exercising your Second Amendment right and talking about it with your First Amendment right.”
Lambert drew a parallel between Gerhard’s case and red flag laws that are currently active in the Michigan state legislature.
“The standards of due process here, while they fail, they are at a certain level… The proposals for red flag laws reduce those protections. They lower those levels,” Lambert said.
“If these are the problems that we are already seeing under existing law, what is it going to be like for good people when we take those protections away – when we reduce those protections? Due process exists for a reason,” he added.
Chippewa County Prosecutor Rob Stratton, whose office has attempted to make an example of Gerhard, would not give a comment regarding the allegations of impropriety in how the case has been handled.
“The prosecutor’s office cannot comment as to the facts or evidence against Mr. Gerhard because it seriously risks impacting his constitutional guaranteed right to a fair trial,“ Stratton told 9&10 News.
Gerhard’s next court date is scheduled for Mar. 18. The legislation is currently in the House Committee on Military, Veterans and Homeland Security where it awaits further action.