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A Bristol County Juvenile Court judge refused to dismiss an involuntary manslaughter charge against a Plainville teenager who is accused of spending 45 minutes on the telephone with a friend, urging him to go through with his plan to kill himself.

The ruling came Wednesday after Michelle Carter’s defense attorney argued that text conversations between Carter and Conrad Henri Roy III, who committed suicide, were protected speech under the First Amendment and that charges should be dismissed.

Judge Bettina Borders rejected that argument.

Carter, an 18-year-old senior at King Philip High School in Wrentham, has pleaded not guilty.

“Even if [Carter] did not understand the consequences of her actions, a reasonable person would have realized that telling a person to get back into a truck filled with carbon monoxide would pose a grave risk of danger to that person,” Borders wrote Wednesday in a seven-page order.


“The First Amendment of the United States Constitution does not protect conduct that threatens another,’’ Borders wrote.

Roy, an 18-year-old from Mattapoisett, died July 13, 2014, in Fairhaven after he connected a generator to a truck’s exhaust system and sat in a parking lot, authorities said.

“There is a point that comes where there isn’t anything anyone can do to save you, not even yourself,” Carter texted Roy, according to prosecutors.

Gregg Miliote, spokesman for the office of Bristol District Attorney Thomas M. Quinn III, said prosecutors welcomed the judge’s ruling.

“We can now focus our efforts on preparing for the upcoming trial in this case,” Miliote said in a statement.

Over the telephone, a woman who identified herself as Roy’s grandmother said his family had no comment on the court decision.

Joseph P. Cataldo, Carter’s defense attorney, said he planned to appeal the decision.

Carter’s text messages were not threatening and therefore are protected speech, Cataldo said in a telephone interview.


“I have read through all the text messages and there is clearly no threat,” Cataldo said. “[Carter] was not trying to invoke fear into Conrad Roy. It was just the opposite. The texts were encouraging.”

Michelle Carter, who was 17 years old at the time of the incident, exchanged numerous text messages with the victim in the months, days, and hours before his suicide, according to court documents.

The two met several years ago while both were visiting relatives who lived in the same Florida neighborhood.

The teenagers’ text exchanges ran the gamut of emotion, from the adoring to the bizarre. In one conversation, Carter told Roy she loved him “to the moon and back,” but in the next, she talked her friend through killing himself and helped select the method.

“Everyone will be sad for a while but they will get over it and move on,” Carter said in a text sent to Roy months before the incident.

“I think [ingesting carbon monoxide] is the best way. It will work and it’s painless and fast,” she said later.

On the night of the suicide, prosecutors said, Roy expressed doubts about carrying out their plan, but Carter helped him proceed. The two talked on the phone for 47 minutes that night.

“At some point during that call, Conrad got out of the car ‘because [the carbon monoxide poisoning] was working and he got scared,’ ” the indictment reads.

Carter told him to get back in, it concludes.


Martin W. Healy, chief legal counsel at the Massachusetts Bar Association, said there is a legal basis for the charges lodged by the prosecution.

The legal standard for involuntary manslaughter is wanton or reckless conduct that leads to an unlawful homicide, Healy said. In other words, an individual does not have to cause a victim’s death, but with full knowledge for the grave consequences, merely encourage them to act, he said.

“A reasonable reading of the text communication constitutes the legal definition of a threat. [The texts in this case] were communicated with the intent to inflict physical harm,” Healy said.

Healy said he was interested to see if new facts emerged during the trial. At this point, he called the defense’s job “an uphill battle.”

“They do not have a particularly sympathetic defendant,” Healy said.

Cataldo released a new set of text messages between the two teenagers after Wednesday’s court decision “to show the full picture between Carter and Roy’s relationship,” he said.

In the new texts, Carter reached out to Roy’s friends after a previous suicide attempt in 2012. Carter also provided Roy with a help guide for social anxiety shortly before his death in 2014, according to the texts.

“I don’t want you feeling this way anymore, I want you to be happy,” Carter texted Conrad, about a month before he died.

Cataldo said the new text messages prove the suicide was “not something [Carter] convinced [Roy] to do,” but the other way around.


Astead W. Herndon can be reached at astead.herndon@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @AsteadWH.