A New Jersey woman who trashed her ex-boyfriend on a fake Facebook account using his name can now be prosecuted for identity theft, a judge said.
The woman, Dana Thornton, 41, of Bellville, N.J. was ordered to appear in court next month on identity theft charges for allegedly creating a fake Facebook account in Michael Lasalandra's name and peppering it with unpleasantries, the Los Angeles Times reported. Her lawyer argued that New Jersey's law didn't address electronic communications or social media as a means for identity theft and therefore the charges leveled at his client last year were invalid. The judge disagreed and upheld the prior judge's ruling.
Thornton allegedly wrote on the fake Facebook account that "I'm a sick piece of scum with a gun," and "I'm an undercover narcotics detective that gets high every day." The page, which no longer exists, portrayed Lasalandra as a drug-using, prostitute-chasing cope with at least one sexually-transmitted disease. Lasalandra and Thornton dated for only three months in 2007.
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If convicted, Thornton faces 18 months in prison.
As other sites have pointed out, New Jersey's interpretation of its identity theft law could have broader implications than just Thornton, including spreading to other states. It could effectively make impersonating anyone online a crime. How's that for first-amendment rights?
The Associated Press reported that the New Jersey law essentially makes it illegal to impersonate someone "for the purpose of obtaining a benefit for himself or another or to injure or defraud another."
Unfortunately, that's a law that can have a broad interpretation, especially if the law doesn't see injuries simply in financial terms.