The lawyer for a New Jersey woman charged with setting up a Facebook profile for her ex-boyfriend without his consent and using it to defame his reputation is trying to get his client's case dismissed on a technicality that may have ramifications beyond the accused's home state.
Dana Thornton, 41, of Bellville, N.J., was indicted last year on one count of 4th degree identity theft for allegedly creating a Facebook page for Parsippany, N.J., Detective Michael Lasalandra after they broke up, and posting pictures of him on it and disparaging and defaming his character, lifestyle choices and career, the Daily Record reported.
If found guilty, Thornton could face up to 18 months in prison. Thornton's defense lawyer, Richard Roberts, however, is arguing that the charge against his client is flawed, because New Jersey's statute on identity theft and impersonation "is silent on whether it applies to Facebook and other social media and electronic devices," his defense motion said.
"Most importantly, in New Jersey no courts have ever ruled that creating a profile of anyone online, without the individual's consent, constitutes false impersonation," the motion argued.
The prosecutors, who are opposing the dismissal, argue that although the New Jersey identity theft statute does not explicitly mention Facebook and social media, Thornton's actions fall under the provision that states that impersonating someone to injure or defraud them is a crime. Other states, including New York, identify Facebook and social media in their identity theft statutes.
California attorney Thomas Conroy agrees with the prosecutors' stance, citing the broad scope of the statute as a reason Thornton's argument for dismissal does not hold merit.
"Rather than saying it's illegal to defame someone through the Internet, or Facebook, or TV or radio, the statute seems like it casts a broad net," Conroy told SecurityNewsDaily. "It seems like a statue of broad application, designed to be a catch-all rather than a statute designed to criminalize the medium-specific acts," he added.
A state Superior Court in Morristown was scheduled to hear the dismissal motion this week, but the hearing has been postponed to Nov. 2.