On May 28th, 2022, 10-year-old Daniel Marquez was arrested at his Florida home by the Lee County Sheriff’s Office, led by Sheriff Carmine Marceno. Daniel was subsequently booked, handcuffed, perp-walked, and incarcerated for 21 days before charges were filed.
The basis for the arrest were private text messages sent by Daniel to a friend, intended as a joke, which the Sheriff mischaracterized as a “threat” to fit his political agenda. Within three hours of the arrest, Marceno, who has a history of falsely and publicly accusing kids in this way, posted Daniel’s name, mugshot, and a “perp walk” video on the department’s Facebook page.
Daniel is in fifth grade, an honor roll student, and a Boy Scout with no history of problematic behavior. Up until May 28th, Daniel enjoyed the anonymity and privacy that our justice system typically protects in the interest of children. Now, his name and image are being circulated throughout the internet, along with patently false accusations against him. Those printed words and viral images will follow him forever.
This case goes far beyond the excessive behavior on the part of Marceno, and even the irreparable harm done to Daniel and his family. If a 10-year-old child can be arrested at the whim of an attention-seeking politician, locked up for 21 days, and prosecuted—for an obvious attempt at humor—then our own civil liberties and freedoms are also at risk.
If we don’t stand up for the rights of Daniel Marquez, then our own rights to free speech, due process, and privacy are also at risk.
This case is a pernicious example of a culture of increasing censoriousness and abuse of power that uses social media to destroy people’s lives and reputations. It highlights the threat to our right to free expression, is a clear violation of First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights, and effectively criminalizes speech based on the purely subjective and opportunistic criteria of those in positions of authority.
FAIR is committed to advancing civil rights and liberties of all Americans, including children. We will continue to dedicate efforts and resources to advocating for those individuals whose rights have been violated.
If you would like to support the Marquez family, please consider donating to the family’s legal defense fund using the form below.
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