Former student faces 10 years in prison for rap lyrics that prompted lockdown
A former West Caldwell high school student could face up to 10 years in prison after the lyrics to a rap song he wrote and posted online led to a school lockdown.
Michael Schmitt mentions James Caldwell High School while referencing a shooting in a song he posted on the social media site SoundCloud several days after the mass shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
The lyrics and a SoundCloud profile picture featuring Schmitt with a gun, led to the lockdown at the school on Feb. 24. Students were at the school for a music event and were told to hide in classrooms.
Schmitt was charged with creating a false public alarm, which could carry a five- to 10-year sentence.
The 18-year-old told BuzzFeed News that the song was a parody and that he did not mean any harm.
"They painted me as a school shooter, and that's terrifying," Schmitt told BuzzFeed.
But James Caldwell High School principal Jim Devlin told BuzzFeed that the police did the right thing.
“He says there wasn't a plan, but we don't know for certain,” Devlin told BuzzFeed.
The lockdown at the West Caldwell school came among several lockdowns at schools across New Jersey in the wake of the Parkland shooting.
Schmitt’s attorney, David Gray, told BuzzFeed that what Schmitt posted should be protected under the First Amendment.
Gray said that he hopes that the courts will also see it this way.
"This is as serious as it gets," Gray told Buzzfeed. "His life is on the line."
The case is expected to be presented before a grand jury within the next few weeks.