Posted by: gregboyko | March 13, 2009

Police Officer’s Internet Persona Gets ex-con acquitted

Here’s a timely story from the New York Times that makes my post yesterday about digital personas that much more real. A police officer chased down and arrested an ex-con on a stolen motorcycle who was allegedly carrying a loaded weapon and a bag of ammunition. During the arrest, the suspect suffered three broken ribs. The suspect accused the officer of planting the gun in order to justify the beating. When the case went to court, the defense used comments the officer had left on MySpace and Facebook to paint a picture that the officer was prone to corruption and violence (based on references to the movie Training Day, and comments he left regarding a video of an officer hitting a suspect indicating the “right” way to “tune him up”. The defendant walked.

Once again, a digital persona collides with real life (this time in a court room). Why would the officer make comments like this? I can only speculate, but one thing that happens on the internet is that feelings/thoughts that people have are more freely expressed. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if this officer talks like this in real life around certain people. It wouldn’t surprise me that he is prone to more violence than is necessary. But it’s also a pretty far leap from comments on the ‘net to planting a gun, which I don’t believe this officer did.

In any case, things said through a “digital persona” may come back to bite you in real life, with real consequences. In this case, it’s possible a guilty man was acquitted.

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