- Associated Press - Thursday, September 3, 2015

PITTSBURGH (AP) - A federal judge has freed a 19-year-old Pennsylvania man until he can be tried on charges he made Facebook threats to kill preschool children.

Cale Haer has told authorities he was joking, has a dark sense of humor, and never intended to carry out the threats. And U.S. District Judge Kim Gibson ruled Thursday in Johnstown that’s what the evidence shows so far, which is why he released Haer to live with his father, a state prison guard.

“The Facebook posts at issue are graphic and disturbing in nature and indicate a potential threat to public schools generally,” the judge wrote. “However, the Government has presented no evidence other than the posts themselves that Defendant intended to carry out the described acts.”

Haer was first arrested by police in his hometown of Johnstown, some 60 miles east of Pittsburgh, before federal authorities took over.

He was chatting on Facebook with another person Aug. 20 when someone else saw Haer’s comments and called police.

“I disagree to a point so extreme I’m gonna go blow up a preschool to show my disapproval,” Haer wrote, according to the FBI complaint.

When the other person asked Haer if he was serious, he wrote: “I’m 100 percent serious about blowing up a preschool. Just killing dozens of innocent little toddlers. Their screams lull me to sleep. … Knowing I scarred families by killing their pride and joy. Mmmm ….”

Assistant U.S. Attorney John Valkovci Jr. argued Haer should have known the danger of making threats after he was suspended from high school for comments about a bomb.

But public defender Christopher Brown said the suspension resulted from Haer wearing a T-shirt - which Brown showed the court - depicting a woman in a bikini straddling an animated bomb.

Gibson said prosecutors can ask to have Haer jailed again if an ongoing inventory of his cellphone or personal computer produce evidence he was serious about the preschool threats.

Haer was charged in federal court because a U.S. Supreme Court decision earlier this year determined such language can be prosecuted if the person knows someone might view it as a threat. Haer allegedly told investigators he could see how someone who didn’t know him might not realize he was joking.

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