Philly D.A. asks Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to take down witness intimidation posts

District Attorney Seth Williams
Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams.

District Attorney Seth Williams yesterday sent a letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg urging him to remove what he says are potentially life-threatening posts intimidating witnesses.

“We all know that Facebook is often used as a way for people to get messages out,” Williams said.

“Unfortunately a lot of the defendants, the people we see at the Criminal Justice Center, have Facebook pages as well, and they’re sending messages about their criminal enterprises, about how to intimidate people, about how to hurt people to other people. And of course we’re trying to do all we can to protect witnesses.”

Central to Williams’ plea is the case of 20-year-old Freddie Henriquez, who in August allegedly obtained the statement of a witness testifying against four of his friends regarding illegal gun transactions and posted on his page photos of the statement with the caption “rats.”

Though Henriquez has been charged with witness retaliation, witness intimidation and making terroristic threats, the Facebook posts as of yesterday morning remained online, according to Williams. He said Facebook officials have refused prosecutors’ repeated requests for the posts’ removal.

“We in law enforcement have to keep up with the technology of the defendants,” Williams said. “We need [Zuckerberg] to help us protect witnesses by not allowing filth to be on Facebook, where people actually identify the person as a rat and demand that the rats be killed.”

He said no legal action is currently being taken against the popular site, but it’s possible the site could in the future “be seen to be somehow advancing the criminal enterprise” and be held criminally culpable.”

“When incidents like this occur on Facebook, it erodes all the work and all the attempts that we’re trying to do to protect witnesses and ensure their safety,” said assistant director of Victims Services Leland Kent.

“It also impacts witnesses with the fear factor. This is used almost like a bully pulpit and what we try to do is assist them with long term housing and a safety plan, but when witnesses see this, it’s almost like, ‘Where will I go? where is the impact?’ and it multiplies their fear factor exponentially.”

The District Attorney’s Office said in an email that some of the allegedly threatening posts on the Facebook page of Henriquez, who was recently freed on bail, were yesterday afternoon taken down following the press conference.

Williams said he found little solace in the posts’ removal. “Every day they were viewed by the public is a day this witness’s safety was in jeopardy,” he said.

“I take no comfort in the fact that this defendant was able to raise $25,000, got out of jail and removed some of the life threatening material on his own once his name was in the paper. This should have happened in November when this office first approached Facebook’s security team.”

Twisted timeline

– Sept. 19, 2012. Mark Lee-Purvis, 36, became the first defendant in Philadelphia to be convicted by a jury for something posted on the Internet.

Following an illegal gun sale arrest in which his co-defendant became a cooperating witness, Purvis allegedly called the man a “rat” in Facebook posts and told friends where to find him.

Purvis was convicted of witness intimidation, witness retaliation and making terroristic threats and sentenced to five to 12 years in prison.

– Sept. 20, 2012. Joshua Scott Albert, 26, was arrested and charged with three counts each of criminal solicitation to commit murder, making terroristic threats and harassment for allegedly creating Facebook pages calling for the deaths of District Attorney Seth Williams, Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 5 President John McNesby and Philadelphia police officers, in general.

Albert, who has been ordered to stand trial on the charges, is currently jailed in lieu of $100,000 bail and is next due in court on Feb. 7.

–  Jan. 3, 2012. London Eley, 20, was convicted of solicitation to commit murder for allegedly posting on her Facebook page in the summer of 2011 that she would “pay somebody a stack” to kill her baby’s father.

Prosecutors said 18-year-old Timothy Bynum accepted Eley’s proposal and exchanged a series of Facebook messages discussing the victim.

Eley was sentenced to 6 to 23 months in jail and five years of probation, with an order to attend anger management and “stay off social media.” Bynum was sentenced to 11 1/2 to 23 months in jail and eight years of intensive probation.

 



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

Sprint and T-Mobile offer further price discounts

Sprint unveiled a plan on Thursday that gives subscribers access to unlimited data for $60 a month, the industry's cheapest unlimited data offering.

National

Hundreds pay it forward at Florida Starbucks in…

The spontaneous chain of kindness continued for about 11 hours, totaling 457 transactions by the time it ended.

National

Weather system east of Caribbean could turn into…

An area of low pressure located east of the Caribbean Sea has a 50 percent chance of becoming a tropical depression or storm in the next 48 hours, U.S. forecasters…

National

U.S. hospital to discharge doctor treated with experimental…

An American doctor who contracted Ebola treating victims of the deadly virus in Liberia has recovered and will be discharged on Thursday by the Atlanta hospital that treated him with…

Movies

Review: 'When the Game Stands Tall' is both…

The high school football saga "When the Game Stands Tall" fumbles around for a focus while Jim Caviezel offers the most low-key coach in history.

Movies

Girlfriend in a coma: Chloe Grace Moretz

Chloe Grace Moretz is the best cheerleader "If I Stay" could ask for. As the star of the film adaptation of the successful YA novel…

The Word

The Word: Summer lovin' for Zac Efron and…

Ah, the summer romance. So intense, so fleeting. With Labor Day fast approaching, it should come as little surprise that the incredibly surprising romance between…

The Word

The Word: The Zac Efron-Michelle Rodriguez summer fling…

  Ah, the summer romance. So intense, so fleeting. With Labor Day fast approaching, it should come as little surprise that the incredibly surprising romance…

NFL

Fantasy football draft guide: How to draft your…

Many are wondering if we’re entering a new age in fantasy football drafting — one where running backs take a backseat.

NFL

Jets vs. Giants: 3 Giants storylines to watch

The Giants have plenty to work on as they reach the dress rehearsal preseason game Friday night against the rival Jets.

NFL

Jets vs. Giants: 3 Jets storylines to watch

Metro looks at three Jets storylines to watch as they play the Giants Friday.

NFL

Giants expected to work Corey Washington into first-team…

The day of reckoning for the Giants' fringe players will fall upon them Friday night against the Jets.

Sex

Big weddings may lead to long-term happiness

Dreaming of a big wedding? A new study indicates that the longer your guest list, the happier you’ll be in the long run. l A…

Sex

Online dating for every generation

Frank Jackson and his mother Maggie are like lots of modern families: They have dinner together regularly, keep each other updated on their lives —…

Wellbeing

Going green could be the key to getting…

If we could just pursue the things that would actually make us happy, we could help the environment too, according to a New York researcher.…

Tech

Siren: A new dating app that puts women…

Online dating can be brutal, especially for single women. Noting that many women hate wading through inappropriate messages and photos, two tech entrepreneurs decided to…