Commentary

EDITOR’S CORNER

The law even works on—gasp!—Facebook
Mike Brown

By now everyone has heard about that football player with the non-existent girlfriend.

There’s a lesson to be learned from it, of course, but I’m not real sure what it is unless it’s that a fake girlfriend can get you in just as much trouble as a real one.

But there might be one actual truth to be drawn from the whole bizarre mess. The Internet, especially the Facebook part of it, is not really the safe place to be stupid you might think it is.

Here are some people who might agree with that statement.

• Craig “Lazie” Lynch escaped from a minimum security prison in Suffolk, England, where he was serving a seven-year sentence for armed robbery.

So, probably, he did the smart thing and tried to attract as little attention as possible, right?

Uh, no. He started a Facebook page, posted updates on his travels and photos of him giving one-digit salutes to the police. He got over 40,000 “friends.” Lynch taunted police to “do what they’re payed (sic) for.” They did. They caught him. No more Facebook page.

• Montigo Arrington of Tarrant, Alabama, told police on his Facebook page that he was thinking about strapping a bomb to his body and walking into the police station.

They showed up at his house. The threat was fake. The child porn on his computer wasn’t. He was arrested

The Jefferson County, Alabama, deputy sheriff who made the arrest commented: “You really probably shouldn’t threaten law enforcement when anyone who reads it can see your name!”

• Anthony Elonis of Lower Soucon, Pennsylvania, had an online fight with his wife. That’s not against the law.

But threatening to kill her, a former employee, an FBI agent and a classroom full of school children (this was two months before Newtown, Connecticut) most certainly is.

Oh, and since the threats went across state lines, it was a federal offense. He got two years.

• Hazel Cunningham was drawing every kind of welfare the United Kingdom could provide, citing single parenthood and unemployment.

Which might have been okay had she not posted on Facebook pictures of her expensive Caribbean wedding (to a husband she claimed not to have) along with her vacations to Asia.

She got a 120-day sentence and had to pay back the $29,000 she had swindled from taxpayers.

• Go ahead and post photos of that big fish or 10-point buck. Unless you’re an idiot like Brandon Lowry of Norco, Louisiana.

He shot 64 ducks on a recent trip into the bayou and posted the pictures.

Unfortunately the bag limit is four, per-person, per day. So he only had 16 times the legal daily limit. The Louisiana Dept of Wildlife & Fisheries said that little “fais do do” was a “fais no no.”

He got fined. A big one.

• There are two times when you probably shouldn’t post on the Internet that you’ve kidnapped someone.

When you have. And when you haven’t.

Douglas Martin of Riverdale, Illinois, did exactly that.

When police showed up he was able to convince them the kidnapping claim was just part of a creative writing class.

But he was less persuasive about the white powder they found covering his bathroom. It turned out to be residue of heroin.

Police made a little “kidnapping” of their own at Douglas’s house.

• Percy Sutcliffe-Keenan and Jordan Blackshaw just may win the “dumb posting” prize.

They’d been following the London riots of 2011, and thinking there could be some in their city of Norwich.

So they decided to “sponsor” one, and posted Facebook messages, telling everyone when and where to come out and riot.

No rioters showed up. Guess who did? Right, the police. Percy and Jordan got four years each.

• A professor at a Florida university said over the years he’s gotten several e-mails in the spring from students who couldn’t do term papers that weekend because their grandmother had died, or there had been some kind of terrible family crisis requiring their presence.

He’d always say “yes” and wait weeks for the late papers.

On which he would scroll a big red “zero,” and return to the student, stapled to the copies of the Facebook photos they’d posted of the wet T-shirt contests, beer bashes and drunken carousing they’d done in Fort Lauderdale or Panama Beach during the sad trip to granny’s funeral.

Okay, that’s all the funny stuff. There were some very disturbing comments, mostly from Brits, at the end of the article where these anecdotes were listed.

All were of the “people need to be put in jail when they put something on the Internet that’s offensive” variety.

And offensive means, of course, “an opinion that’s different from mine.”

They’re proud that there are laws in the Yooo-Knighted Kingdom which let the government do just that. And there are!

All, I’ve got to say is, thank you George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin, Patrick Henry and the rest of y’all.

It may be messy and, yes, sometimes actually unfair and offensive, but I’ll take free speech every time.

Just don’t have your bathroom covered with heroin, shoot 64 ducks or use the granny’s funeral excuse five weekends in a row.


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2013-01-31 digital edition



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