Back in April, we reported on the story of 14-year-old Jared Marcum, a West Virginia eighth-grader who had been suspended for wearing an NRA t-shirt to school.
As if the initial story wasn't bizarre enough, Marcum is now faced with a fine up to $500 and up to a year in jail after being formally charged with obstructing an officer June 17, according to WOWK-TV in Charleston, W.V.
Check out the video from WOWK-TV.
On April 18, Marcum went to school wearing a shirt emblazoned with the NRA logo, along with a picture of an camo-finished AR and the phrase, "Protect Your Right."
According to the Logan County School District's dress code, students are forbidden from wearing anything that displays profanity, violence, discriminatory messages or sexually suggestive phrases. Garments that glorify alcohol, tobacco or drugs are also banned. Hunting rifles apparently fell somewhere in one of those categories, so a teacher told Marcum in the cafeteria to remove the shirt — and in doing so, raised his voice and caused a scene, according to Marcum. When Marcum refused, saying the shirt did not explicitly violate the school's dress code, he was cuffed by Logan County (W.V.) Police, who charged him with disrupting the educational process and obstructing an officer.
"When the police came, I was still talking and telling them that this was wrong, that they cannot do this, it's not against any school policy," Marcum told The Associated Press. "The officer, he told me to sit down and be quiet. I said, 'No, I'm exercising my right to free speech.' I said it calmly."
After serving a one-day suspension, Marcum returned to school wearing the same exact shirt — and he wasn't alone, as about 100 other students also wore shirts with similar pro-Second Amendment phrases, none of whom faced disciplinary actions. Initially, Marcum and his lawyer, Ben White, thought the case would end there with charges being dropped, but that was not the case, as prosecuting attorney Michael White decided to move forward with the charges.
In court documents obtained by WOWK-TV, the arresting officer from the Logan County Police Department, James Adkins, claimed Marcum would not stop talking, which somehow hindered Adkins' ability to do his job. However, Ben White said Adkins' petition did not mention any threats or violent actions by Marcum.
"In my view of the facts, Jared didn't do anything wrong," he told reporters. "I think officer Adkins could have done something differently."
Prosecuting attorney Michael White refused to answer questions on the case, as did the Logan County Police Department.
Now in the middle of a completely absurd prosecution, Marcum is getting some help from gun owners across the nation. The Gun Owners Foundation recently threw their support behind Marcum, offering to help pro bono.
"Usually, Gun Owners Foundation supports individuals appealing convictions on firearms charges that involve constitutional issues," the foundation said in a press release." But we think that Jared's case warrants special attention, as it involves both First and Second Amendment freedoms.
"If we are not allowed to make pro-Second Amendment statements — all because somebody is offended — then we can count the days to when we'll lose the freedoms enshrined in both Amendments."
UPDATE (6/27): As if this story couldn't get any goofier, prosecutors called for an emergency gag order hearing against Marcum and his father, Allen Lardieri, from speaking with the press about the case.
"It was for Jared's better interest, is what I was told, which seems to be a bit odd to me," Lardieri told WOWK-TV. "These are the same individuals that are trying to prosecute him, so as far as them knowing what is in his better interest, I have a lot of questions about that."
Charlo Greene, the WOWK-TV reporter who originally broke the story and has been diligently covering it since, tried to file a petition against the gag order on behalf of the free press. When she and her camera crew showed up at the Logan County Courthouse, however, they were met with a hostile bailiff shouting at Greene and her associates, threatening to arrest them on obstruction charges — freedom of the press, indeed — before throwing them out.
Ultimately, prosecutors withdrew their motion for a gag order on the condition that they too be allowed to speak with the press — which so far, they have refused to do, treating Greene with more unwarranted hostility.
This story just gets weirder and weirder. As if bullying a 14-year-old kid wasn't enough, Logan County officials apparently have a major issue with reporters just trying to tell the whole story — even when that reporter is trying to get prosecutors' side of the story too.
We hope common sense eventually prevails in Logan County, W.V., but at the rate things are going, we're not holding our breaths.