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Your Honor I present Exhibit A: Facebook

SOURCE: http://www.cnn.com/2008/CRIME/07/18/facebook.evidence.ap/index.html

Unrepentant on Facebook? Expect jail time

# Prosecutors use Facebook, MySpace photos to show lack of remorse
# Students who made light of drinking received jail sentences for DUI
# Defense attorneys also use social networking sites to dig up dirt on witnesses


PROVIDENCE, Rhode Island (AP) -- Two weeks after Joshua Lipton was charged in a drunken driving crash that seriously injured a woman, the 20-year-old college junior attended a Halloween party dressed as a prisoner. Pictures from the party showed him in a black-and-white striped shirt and an orange jumpsuit labeled "Jail Bird."
Prosecutors pounced when this party photo of Joshua Lipton in a "Jail Bird" costume appeared on Facebook.

Prosecutors pounced when this party photo of Joshua Lipton in a "Jail Bird" costume appeared on Facebook.

In the age of the Internet, it might not be hard to guess what happened to those pictures: Someone posted them on the social networking site Facebook. And that offered remarkable evidence for Jay Sullivan, the prosecutor handling Lipton's drunken-driving case.

Sullivan used the pictures to paint Lipton as an unrepentant partier who lived it up while his victim recovered in the hospital. A judge agreed, calling the pictures depraved when sentencing Lipton to two years in prison.

Online hangouts like Facebook and MySpace have offered crime-solving help to detectives and become a resource for employers vetting job applicants. Now the sites are proving fruitful for prosecutors, who have used damaging Internet photos of defendants to cast doubt on their character during sentencing hearings and argue for harsher punishment.

"Social networking sites are just another way that people say things or do things that come back and haunt them," said Phil Malone, director of the cyberlaw clinic at Harvard Law School's Berkman Center for Internet & Society. "The things that people say online or leave online are pretty permanent."

The pictures, when shown at sentencing, not only embarrass defendants but can make it harder for them to convince a judge that they're remorseful or that their drunken behavior was an aberration. (Of course, the sites are also valuable for defense lawyers looking to dig up dirt to undercut the credibility of a star prosecution witness.)

Prosecutors do not appear to be scouring networking sites while preparing for every sentencing, even though telling photos of criminal defendants are sometimes available in plain sight and accessible under a person's real name. But in cases where they've had reason to suspect incriminating pictures online, or have been tipped off to a particular person's MySpace or Facebook page, the sites have yielded critical character evidence.

"It's not possible to do it in every case," said Darryl Perlin, a senior prosecutor in Santa Barbara County, California. "But certain cases, it does become relevant."

Perlin said he was willing to recommend probation for Lara Buys for a drunken driving crash that killed her passenger last year, until he thought to check her MySpace page while preparing for sentencing.

The page featured photos of Buys, taken after the crash but before sentencing, holding a glass of wine as well as joking comments about drinking. Perlin used the photos to argue for a jail sentence instead of probation, and Buys, then 22, got two years in prison.

"Pending sentencing, you should be going to [Alcoholics Anonymous]; you should be in therapy; you should be in a program to learn to deal with drinking and driving," Perlin said. "She was doing nothing other than having a good old time."

Santa Barbara defense lawyer Steve Balash said the day he met client Jessica Binkerd, a recent college graduate charged in a fatal drunken driving crash, he asked whether she had a MySpace page. When she said yes, he told her to take it down because he figured it might have pictures that cast her in a bad light.

But she didn't remove the page. And right before Binkerd was sentenced in January 2007, the attorney said, he was "blindsided" by a presentencing report from prosecutors that featured photos posted on MySpace after the crash.

One showed Binkerd holding a beer bottle. Others had her wearing a shirt advertising tequila and a belt bearing plastic shot glasses.

Binkerd wasn't doing anything illegal, but Balash said the photos hurt her anyway. She was given more than five years in prison, though the sentence was later shortened for unrelated reasons.

"When you take those pictures like that, it's a hell of an impact," he said.

Rhode Island prosecutors say Lipton was drunk and speeding near his school, Bryant University in Smithfield, in October 2006 when he triggered a three-car collision that left 20-year-old Jade Combies hospitalized for weeks.

Sullivan, the prosecutor, said another victim of the crash gave him copies of photographs from Lipton's Facebook page that were posted after the collision. Sullivan assembled the pictures, which were posted by someone else but accessible on Lipton's page, into a PowerPoint presentation at sentencing.

One image shows a smiling Lipton at the Halloween party, clutching cans of the energy drink Red Bull with his arm draped around a young woman in a sorority T-shirt. Above it, Sullivan rhetorically wrote, "Remorseful?"

Superior Court Judge Daniel Procaccini said the prosecutor's slide show influenced his decision to sentence Lipton.

"I did feel that gave me some indication of how that young man was feeling a short time after a near-fatal accident, that he thought it was appropriate to joke and mock about the possibility of going to prison," the judge said.

Kevin Bristow, Lipton's attorney, said the photos didn't accurately reflect his client's character or level of remorse and made it more likely he'd get prison over probation.

"The pictures showed a kid who didn't know what to do two weeks after this accident," Bristow said, adding that Lipton wrote apologetic letters to the victim and her family and was so upset that he left college. "He didn't know how to react."

Still, he uses the incident as an example to his own teenage children to watch what they post online.

"If it shows up under your name, you own it," he said, "and you better understand that people look for that stuff."

Interesting stuff, if a wee bit alarming - does the U.S. Justice System believe everything they read on the internet? While the guy may be a dick, what about less clear/black and white cases?
 
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art.jailbird.jpg


And the pic of the asshole, I mean accused.
 

the_fornicator

TRIBE Member
Funzo said:
Everybody should use a fake name on facebook, then stuff like this can't ever happen.

picture's a picture -can't deny it.

plus, even if you used a fake name someone would recognize you and point you out eventually. they recognized this guy so finding a name shouldn't be all that hard.
 

workdowntown

TRIBE Member
Everyone having a fake name also negates a huge part of facebook's usefulness.

The solution to this is, of course:
Don't post the dumb shit in your life on the int4rw3bs.
 
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gsnuff

TRIBE Promoter
el presidente Highsteppa said:
Interesting stuff, if a wee bit alarming - does the U.S. Justice System believe everything they read on the internet? While the guy may be a dick, what about less clear/black and white cases?

Well, it is self-authored shouldn't courts believe it? I'd say welcome to the age of networked identity, but well we've been here for a while. This is part of the same phenomena as individuals having numbers associated with social security, credit cards, and auto licenses. Now events are reflected as data nodes and are tagged, networked, photo-annotated, linked, etc. If you are living a good chunk of your life online, don't cry foul if somebody uses that database you've built up as a background check.
 
gsnuff said:
Well, it is self-authored shouldn't courts believe it? I'd say welcome to the age of networked identity, but well we've been here for a while. This is part of the same phenomena as individuals having numbers associated with social security, credit cards, and auto licenses. Now events are reflected as data nodes and are tagged, networked, photo-annotated, linked, etc. If you are living a good chunk of your life online, don't cry foul if somebody uses that database you've built up as a background check.

True, but that's assuming that the person posting the information online is true, and what about a case where someone is creating or even stealing another person's identity? There are still plenty of people that use false identity just for the very reasons you mentioned or even just to make themselves a bit more interesting than they actually are. They would still need to prove that the information posted was in fact created by the person accused, wouldn't they?
 

gsnuff

TRIBE Promoter
Well, I think it is now becoming clear that people have a lot of accountability in terms of their online presence. Tools like OpenID are beginning to allow people to manage their online identity across platforms (not the walled garden of facebook though) and it is beginning to be the case that what you do on one corner of the net effects how you're perceived elsewhere online. Gone are the days of the Anonymous Coward. These identity management tools *need* to propogate to prevent stuff like this. So, it is presumably up to everyone to manage how they are perceived online, just like everywhere else in life..
 
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~atp~

TRIBE Member
gsnuff said:
Well, I think it is now becoming clear that people have a lot of accountability in terms of their online presence. Tools like OpenID are beginning to allow people to manage their online identity across platforms (not the walled garden of facebook though) and it is beginning to be the case that what you do on one corner of the net effects how you're perceived elsewhere online. Gone are the days of the Anonymous Coward. These identity management tools *need* to propogate to prevent stuff like this. So, it is presumably up to everyone to manage how they are perceived online, just like everywhere else in life..

word the fuck up.
 

peko

TRIBE Member
kyfe said:
I use it all the time to investigate people for this very reason

the privacy commissioner has all kinds of information on their website about protecting your 'privacy' online - and the biggest one is to not post images or super personal information because of IDENTITY THEFT, more so then insurance reasons.

apparently, 3rd party applications on facebook can be owned/made by anyone and this has become an easy way for people to find out personal information to use for bad reasons.

Well, I think it is now becoming clear that people have a lot of accountability in terms of their online presence. Tools like OpenID are beginning to allow people to manage their online identity across platforms (not the walled garden of facebook though) and it is beginning to be the case that what you do on one corner of the net effects how you're perceived elsewhere online. Gone are the days of the Anonymous Coward. These identity management tools *need* to propogate to prevent stuff like this. So, it is presumably up to everyone to manage how they are perceived online, just like everywhere else in life..

'privacy, it's your business' and not something to be taken for granted.
 

salad

TRIBE Member
I am not saying this is the case with this individual, but images can so easily be created with Photoshop that not everything that can be seen is real. Judges need to be eal careful when considering this "evidence", as it can very easily be fabricated.
 
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