Jason Russell, the filmmaker behind the mega-viral “Kony 2012” documentary, was detained in San Diego on Thursday night, NBC reported, citing the San Diego Police Department.
Russell, 33, “was taken into custody after he was found masturbating in public, vandalizing cars and possibly under the influence of something,” NBC’s San Diego affiliate reported, citing San Diego Police Department spokeswoman Lt. Andra Brown.
The San Diego Police Department’s Brown did not immediately return two messages left Friday from Yahoo News. The co-founder of the San Diego-based advocacy group Invisible Children was detained on San Diego’s Pacific Beach “acting very strange” the NBC report said.
Russell’s 30-minute documentary on Ugandan guerrilla leader Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army became a surprise mega viral hit, receiving over 80 million viewers since its release last week. But the film has also kicked up a backlash of criticism against the group, ranging from how Invisible Children spends its finances to whether it cut corners with the facts in order to create a more compelling film about a more than two-decade old Central African conflict.
But Invisible Children has also found many prominent defenders of its work, from members of Congress to President Barack Obama, who sent 100 U.S. special forces to Uganda last fall to search for Kony.
“I think that these guys are getting mercilessly picked apart by a bunch of intellectual elites who spend their days tweeting but never trending,” Cameron Hudson, former Bush White House Africa hand, told Yahoo News last week. “If their aim is to raise awareness, they have done that in spades.”
Invisible Children’s CEO issued a statement, saying Jason Russell was “suffering from exhaustion, dehydration, and malnutrition.”
“The past two weeks have taken a severe emotional toll on all of us, Jason especially, and that toll manifested itself in an unfortunate incident yesterday,” the CEO’s statement said, according to KNSD.
In public intoxication cases, police can generally detain an intoxicated person until the person sobers up. If Russell was voluntarily intoxicated, that’s not a defense to a crime. But since police took Jason Russell to a medical facility for treatment, that could suggest a more serious mental condition. If a person’s mental state makes him unable to appreciate the wrongfulness of his acts, that could set him up for a possible mental-illness defense.
Prosecutors will likely wait for the results of Jason Russell’s medical evaluation before considering whether to press charges. Russell, an evangelical Christian, is married with two children — one of whom has a cameo role in “Kony 2012.”