It wasn’t a great idea, but Randy Ross’ video and song called “School Shooter” was not a direct threat and, therefore, he did not commit a crime, a grand jury determined Friday.
The 23-year-old rapper was arrested February 26 after posting the video for his song on YouTube, featuring a few scenes filmed outside a school near Rochester, New York. He told police at the time he was looking to “capitalize” on the national discussion about gun control and violence after 17 people were killed in a school shooting in Florida.
In return, he was slapped with charges of making a “terroristic threat” and put in jail.
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’ video was never pulled from YouTube and has been viewed more than 28,000 times since his arrest. He was released from jail Friday afternoon.