Court hears appeal by Va. man detained after Facebook posts

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RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A former Marine who posted anti-government messages online and threatened to "sever heads" in a Facebook post asked a federal appeals court Wednesday to reinstate a lawsuit over his psychiatric detention.

Last year, U.S. District Judge Henry Hudson dismissed Brandon J. Raub's lawsuit, ruling that a Chesterfield County mental health screener acted reasonably when he recommended that Raub be held for evaluation. The FBI and county police had questioned Raub about Facebook messages that alluded to violence and spoke of a pending revolution. One message said: "Sharpen my axe; I'm here to sever heads."

Raub claimed that county mental health worker Michael Campbell's actions violated his free-speech rights and the constitutional protection against unreasonable search and seizure. His attorney, William H. Hurd, urged a three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to reinstate the complaint, which sought unspecified damages.

"There was no probable cause to believe he was mentally ill," Hurd told the court, which typically issues a ruling several weeks after hearing oral arguments.

Deputy Chesterfield County Attorney Stylian P. Parthemos said Campbell acted in good faith after Raub threatened to "go out and shoot the town up." Parthemos noted the messages occurred a few weeks after the deadly theater shooting in Colorado and said Raub's training in weaponry made his threats seem credible.

Judge Albert Diaz suggested a recent violent event is no reason to "dilute the Fourth Amendment," but Parthemos said his client was entitled to the benefit of the doubt under the circumstances.

Hurd said that while police might be expected to err on the side of detention, a person with mental health training should have known better.

"What is reasonable for a mental health professional and what is reasonable for a police officer on the beat is a very different thing," Hurd said.

He said Campbell misrepresented Raub's condition when he told a magistrate the man was paranoid and delusional. Hurd said Raub's unconventional beliefs, including that the U.S. government was behind the 9-11 terrorist attacks, are shared by a lot of people and are spread all over the Internet.

Hurd also complained about Raub's treatment, which he said a jury should be allowed to consider.

"He was tied up with his hands behind his back, half naked and barefoot, for 5 ½ hours on a wooden bench. That's not how you treat a mental health patient. That's abysmal," Hurd said.

Parthemos acknowledged that Raub was handcuffed, forced into a police cruiser and taken to jail to be interviewed but said it was because he resisted being detained. He said Raub had an opportunity to tell authorities he wasn't serious about his threats, but did not.

Raub, now 28 and a full-time student, was not charged with a crime.

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