Emojis help make one case and destroy another; corruption defendant used winking emojis

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Emojis helped prosecutors building a case against a Los Angeles city councilman but didn’t work as intended in a plaintiff’s employment discrimination case.

Law.com looked at the two cases in an article that said emojis are “becoming game changers in litigation.”

Federal prosecutors referred to emojis several times in an Oct. 13 corruption indictment against Mark Ridley-Thomas, the now-suspended Los Angeles councilman.

The indictment alleges that Ridley-Thomas conspired with a university dean to obtain Los Angeles County social service and probation contracts for the school, the Los Angeles Times reported.

In exchange, Ridley-Thomas’ son would be admitted into graduate school with a full scholarship, prosecutors alleged. Ridley-Thomas was on the county board of supervisors at the time.

In some emails cited in the indictment, Ridley-Thomas allegedly used winking face emojis and a shushing face emoji when discussing contracts and officials in a position to help their scheme.

But an emoji helped doom the case for a plaintiff alleging that she was sexually harassed by her supervisor at the Montefiore Medical Center in New York. The plaintiff had taken a photo of allegedly harassing text messages that included an emoji with heart eyes.

But the heart eyes emoji would not have displayed on the plaintiff’s iPhone 5 as it was shown in the photo, according to prior stories by Law.com and the Technology & Marketing Law Blog. That particular iPhone used an older operating system with a different look to the emoji.

U.S. District Judge Denise Cote of the Southern District of New York imposed sanctions Aug. 5 after the case was tossed.

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