Facebook Rapist Gets 13 Years in Prison

(Original story at Times Union here.)

Sure, the news media love to publicize horror stories of victims of social media – or in fact, any “new” media – because such stories attract attention, especially with exaggerated headlines.

While the article does not say that the rapist boasted of his exploits on Facebook (and I doubt he was so foolish as to do so), the investigators probably managed to find and contact his other victims, as well as prove his modus operandi in a court of law because of the online trail that he left on Facebook.

I am not advocating criminal acts or ways to circumvent leaving online trails while committing crimes using the internet, but please do know that the authorities can easily find out what you did online and use your online trail as evidence against you in a court of law.

Minors should also be careful about who they befriend online, as well as in the real world.

Prison for online rapist

Colonie man who used Facebook to meet victims gets 13-year prison term
By ROBERT GAVIN Staff writer
Updated 09:35 p.m., Thursday, March 24, 2011

ALBANY — A 24-year-old Colonie man who used Facebook to meet hundreds of teenage girls was sentenced Thursday to 13 years in state prison for raping four of the girls in his home.

David Bradt pleaded guilty in January to four counts of third-degree rape for having sex with the underage victims — ages 15 and 16 — in his Maplewood Avenue home between July 2 and Oct. 10. His plea deal called for between 12 and 13 years in prison.

On Thursday, Judge Thomas Breslin opted for the 13-year stretch and 10 years post-release supervision.

Bradt used Facebook to meet more than 700 girls, mostly between the ages of 15 and 20. He appeared on the social networking site displaying a tattooed bare chest and underwear above low-slung pants.

Bradt began by “friending” one teenager on Facebook — then “friended” all of that girl’s friends. He continued to stockpile “friends” in what police and prosecutors described as a pyramid-type scheme.

After the sentencing, Albany County District Attorney David Soares told reporters Bradt targeted high-school cliques and exploited them.

“When he was ‘friending’ one girl and he was able to see her list of friends, he was basically using those girls as leads, like you would in a business,” Soares said, joined by Assistant District Attorney Shannon Sarfoh. “That’s how he was venturing into these other networks and was able to identify and find all of his prey.”

Colonie police arrested Bradt Oct. 16 after the mother of a 16-year-old girl became concerned over unusual text messages her daughter received from an older man. Although her daughter was not victimized, she called police, which led them to Bradt.

At the time of the arrest, investigators found Bradt’s desktop computer displaying a MapQuest website with directions to a Glenville home for a meeting with another underage girl.

Bradt supplied alcohol and marijuana to some of the victims.

“If it was not for a parent who was paying attention,” Soares said of the woman who tipped off police, “I would have hate to see what this person would have done if left unattended, unmonitored and unchecked.”

While Bradt pleaded guilty to four rapes, his victims numbered about 20, Soares said.

The plea deal did not prevent Bradt from facing new charges should additional allegations arise. He waived his right to appeal.

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I Lost My Salvation Because of Facebook

(Original story on The Chicago Tribune here.)

Sure, no one lost his/her job with the declaration by the parish leaders that Facebook encourages “vanity and dishonesty” or with the parishioner’s insistence that his single status on Facebook attracted lots of “blatantly sexualized photos enticing [him] to join ‘dating’ sites.”

But what does this do to the reputation of the religion?

That’s right. It gives non-believer readers the impression that the faith is not with the times, like how All Facebook pokes fun at that particular parishioner for not knowing how to remove those ads. I could say more, but I’m not going to risk losing either my salvation or my job.

Facebook and Christianity a bad mix, Chicago parish warns

By Manya Brachear, Tribune reporter5:27 p.m. CDT, April 6, 2011

Pope Benedict XVI and Chicago’s Cardinal Francis George may have their own Facebook fan pages, but one Roman Catholic parish in Chicago warned parishioners this past Sunday about the dangers of Facebook.

“[Facebook] is exactly the opposite of the Christian culture where people go into the secrecy and sacredness of the confessional to blot out their sins forever,” St. John Cantius parish leaders wrote in the church bulletin.

The warning was directed at families trying to raise their children in a wholesome environment. It indicted social networking sites for encouraging vanity and dishonesty by providing an outlet for children to create their own electronic version of reality. It also pointed out, for example, that acronyms such as PIR (parent in room), POS (parent over shoulder) and GYPO (get your pants off) can lead children far astray.

“God entrusted parents with the care of their children for one particular purpose, and that is to teach them the way ‘to know, love, and serve God in this life and save their souls hereafter.’ Everything leads us to think that Facebook fits poorly into this plan and was devised for a very different goal.”

Parishioner Matt Abbott said he walked away from his 2,000 Facebook friends a while back because the site had become a “temptation.” For example, his single status invited a barrage of racy ads.

“I can appreciate a good-looking woman. But, as a single Catholic man who strives to remain faithful to the Church’s moral teachings, I don’t like blatantly sexualized photos enticing me to join ‘dating’ sites,” he said.

“Of course, the Internet in general — not just the social network sites — is a force to be reckoned with,” he wrote in an email. “There’s a lot of good and useful material on it, but there’s also a lot of filth.”

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Cop Says He Is Human Waste Disposal; Placed on Desk Duty

(Original story at the New York Times here.)

If you love your job but hate the people you have to deal with in the course of your work, please don’t profess it on social media. Particularly if you’re a cop.

Police Lesson: Social Network Tools Have Two Edges

Published: April 6, 2011

Officer Trey Economidy of the Albuquerque police now realizes that he should have thought harder before listing his occupation on his Facebook profile as “human waste disposal.”

Officer Trey Economidy says a Facebook posting of his was “extremely inappropriate.”

After he was involved in a fatal on-duty shooting in February, a local television station dug up the Facebook page. Officer Economidy was placed on desk duty, and last month the Albuquerque Police Department announced a new policy to govern officers’ use of social networking sites.

Social networking tools like Facebook and Twitter can be valuable assets for law enforcement agencies, helping them alert the public, seek information about crimes and gather evidence about the backgrounds of criminal suspects. But the Internet can also get police departments into trouble.

Public gaffes like Officer Economidy’s — his cynical job description on Facebook was “extremely inappropriate and a lapse in judgment on my part,” he said last week in an e-mail — are only one of the risks. A careless posting on a networking site, law enforcement experts say, can endanger an officer’s safety, as it did in Santa Monica, Calif., last year when the Police Department went to great lengths to conceal a wounded officer’s identity and location, only to have a retired officer inadvertently reveal them on Facebook.

And defense lawyers increasingly scour social networking sites for evidence that could impeach a police officer’s testimony. In one case in New York, a jury dismissed a weapons charge against a defendant after learning that the arresting officer had listed his mood on MySpace as “devious” and wrote on Facebook that he was watching the film “Training Day” to “brush up on proper police procedure.”

In an Arkansas case, a federal appeals court cited as evidence of a police officer’s character photos he posted on MySpace showing him pointing a gun at the camera, flanked by a skull and the legend “the PUNISHER.”

The problem is serious enough that departments across the country are scrambling to develop rules to govern what officers can and cannot do online.

“This is something that all the police chiefs around the country, if you’re not dealing with it, you better deal with it,” said Mark A. Marshall, chief of police in Smithfield, Va., and the president of theInternational Association of Chiefs of Police, which has developed its own model policy.

His department, Chief Marshall said, has had a few embarrassing episodes. In one, an officer who had been involved in a high-speed chase and ended up in “a little bit of a tussle” with a suspect posted a comment about what a good time he had during the dust-up. In another, an officer posted a photo of a tattoo of St. Michael on her hip. Both were disciplined, Chief Marshall said.

“Unfortunately, you have these extreme incidents that are out there,” he said, “and, candidly, you ask yourself, What on earth were they thinking when they posted that?”

Most social media policies try to balance a police department’s interests against First Amendment protections for the officers. Many include prohibitions against posting any statements that could discredit or reflect badly on a department, that illustrate reckless behavior or that disparage people based on race, religion or sexual orientation. Posting crime scene photos or other evidence from criminal cases online is also prohibited by most policies.

Others go further. Albuquerque’s policy, for example, prohibits officers from identifying themselves as employees of the Police Department or posting photos of departmental insignia — badges, uniforms, cruisers — without permission. And a recent policy by the Police Department in Pueblo, Colo., bans gossiping online with outsiders about department affairs.

Police officials say that the courts have generally upheld restrictions on the speech of government employees when the speech is job related.

“The U.S. Supreme Court has spoken on it so often that the parameters are fairly well defined,” said Martha Stonebrook, senior city attorney in Salt Lake City, who was a co-author of a paper on social networking in law enforcement given at the international police chiefs association’s annual meeting in Orlando last year. In one famous 2004 case, the Supreme Courtupheld the firing of an officer who filmed himself stripping off a police uniform and masturbating and sold the video on eBay’s adults-only area, using the name Codestud3@aol.com.

But David L. Hudson Jr., a scholar at the First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University, said the lower courts were still sorting out the implications of the Supreme Court’s decisions involving job-related speech.

“The question of when employees can be disciplined for off-duty speech is hazy,” he said. “Part of our core nature is what we do for a living, and to prohibit somebody from engaging in any kind of expression related to their job is arguably too broad.”

In fact, the Albuquerque policy has met some resistance from the rank and file. Joey Sigala, president of the Albuquerque Police Officers’ Association, said that while the department was entitled to dictate what officers wear and say on the clock, “I don’t believe they have the right to tell us what to do outside of that.”

He said that requiring officers to get permission before posting pictures involving department insignia made it difficult to share news about awards or honors spontaneously with family and friends. “They’re taking away the ability to demonstrate the good, as well as the bad,” he said.

Chief Ray Schultz of the Albuquerque police said that department officials researched policies from around the nation before developing their own.

“You need to get a handle on this very quickly, because this has the potential to damage the reputation of the organization and also adversely affect you in the courtroom,” Chief Schultz said, adding that some social media sites appeared to be “like the bathroom wall of 20 years ago, except now the entire world can see it.”

His department, he said, has hired a compliance officer to investigate the online presence of any police officer “who comes to the attention of the department,” by examining social network pages and running the officer’s name through Google.

Media coverage is often what prompts a department into action. The Indiana State Police initiated its policy after WTHR in Indianapolis discovered photos of drunken revels on a trooper’s Facebook page. One showed the trooper, Chris Pestow, with a .357 Magnum pointed at his head. He also posted a comment about a homeless man beaten by police officers in California, saying, “These people should have died when they were young, anyway, i’m just doing them a favor,” according to the report by WTHR.

After the controversy, Trooper Pestow resigned, said First Sgt. David Bursten, a spokesman for the State Police. He said he instructs new police officers, “Don’t do or say anything that you wouldn’t be proud to have your mother see or hear.”

“That really sums it up,” he said.

Asked about his experience, Mr. Pestow said in an e-mail, “A written policy concerning social media from the Indiana State Police prior to my unfortunate misstep would have benefited me considerably.”

Chief Joseph E. Thomas Jr. of the Southfield, Mich., police said that when it comes to social media, it is important for departments to enforce discipline even for small infractions. He cited one instance when an officer photographed goats on a resident’s rooftop before confiscating the animals, then posted the photos. The officer was told to remove the photos from the site and given a verbal reprimand.

“That was cute and it was something that did not harm anybody, but it’s inappropriate,” Chief Thomas said.

He said department officials routinely checked police recruits’ social networking pages when they apply for a job. In one case, he said, a candidate posted this update on Facebook:

“Just returned from the interview with the Southfield Police Department and I can’t wait to get a gun and kick some ass.”

He was rejected.

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