Criminal Justice

NJ Woman Can Be Prosecuted Over Fake Facebook Profile, Judge Rules

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A New Jersey woman can be prosecuted for identity theft for allegedly creating a fake Facebook profile for her ex-boyfriend and posting inflammatory comments about him online, a judge has ruled.

Dana Thornton is accused of creating the fake profile of her ex-boyfriend, a northern New Jersey narcotics detective, where she allegedly posted comments about him to the effect that he had herpes, frequented prostitutes and was “high” all the time.

“I’m a sick piece of scum with a gun,” Thornton allegedly wrote about her ex-boyfriend, while posing as him on the fake profile.

The case, the first of its kind in New Jersey, could have wider ramifications for cyberspeech, reports.

At issue is a New Jersey law that makes it illegal to impersonate someone “for the purpose of obtaining a benefit for himself or another or to injure or defraud another.”

Thornton’s lawyer, Richard Roberts, tried to have the charge dismissed on the grounds that the law makes no mention of electronic communications.

But state Superior Court Judge David Ironson held Wednesday that the law was clear and unambiguous.

“The fact that the means of committing the crime are not set forth in the statute doesn’t lead to the conclusion that the defendant didn’t commit the crime,” he said.

Bradley Shear, a Bethesda, Md., lawyer who specializes in online issues, said he expects to see more cases like this one in the near future. But he said this particular case could be difficult to prosecute because of the way the New Jersey law is written.

Shear said only two states—California and New York—have laws specifically banning online identity theft. But those laws could also be difficult to enforce if the alleged offender is from out of state, which is sometimes the case. “The Internet knows no jurisdictional boundaries,” he said.

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