Archive for the ‘Civil Rights’ Category

A Social Networking Lesson for Parents: Think twice before you hit ‘send’!

June 2, 2010

It’s amazing how people continue to find new ways to get into trouble with social networking.

Photo by Davin Lesnick

Just a few years ago, a parent might get into trouble with his or her teenager by reading the teenager’s diary. Such domestic misdeeds seem almost quaint by comparison to what some parents are now doing on the Internet.

As reported by the ABA Journal and others, a mother in Arkansas has been convicted of harassing her own teenage son via the popular social networking site Facebook. While the mother and her teenage son had an admittedly difficult relationship before this (the teenager had lived with his grandmother for years), the teen never suspected that his mother would go to such lengths in her ongoing battle with him.

Denise New logged onto her son’s personal Facebook account after the teenager apparently left his account open on his computer. Perhaps many parents can appreciate the temptation of peering into their children’s online activities given such an opportunity. This mother, however, was not motivated by concern over her son’s well-being or even simple curiosity. Instead, Ms. New intended to post phony messages on his site purporting to come from him. For example, after the two got into a physical altercation and the police got involved, the mother posted a message on her son’s Facebook account (again pretending she was her son) essentially bragging that he had intentionally started the fight and called the police on his mother. Cell phone messages played in court corroborated that the mother was posting such phony messages. In other messages left on his site, the mother expressed regret at ever having a child and repeatedly used foul language. Putting all of this together, the court found that this conduct constituted harassment of the teenager. The mother was sentenced to 30 days in jail (suspended) along with probation and parenting classes.

As a reminder to all of us in this new world of social networking, the trial judge offered some sage advice:

“We live in a world now where what used to be said between two people or in a parking lot, now you hit a button and hundreds, maybe millions, of people can hear what you do,” he said. “It makes it maybe even more important for a person to think before they act because the amplification can be tremendous.” (Source: Arkansas Online)

Like it or not, we all now have the ability to broadcast information — even highly personal information — to the world.  Apparently, some of us are still struggling with deciding what information should be broadcast and what should be kept to ourselves.

Appeals Court: Ex-Prosecutor Can’t Be Sued Over His Work on Terror Case – News – ABA Journal

February 4, 2010

From the ABA Journal comes a report (Appeals Court: Ex-Prosecutor Can’t Be Sued Over His Work on Terror Case – News – ABA Journal) about a ruling from the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals affirming in part (the dismissal) and reversing in part (the denial of a dismissal) rulings by the lower court in a civil action brought by a previously charged criminal defendant against a former prosecutor for allegedly failing to disclose exculpatory (Brady) information.

This decision (provided in full by the court) is a fascinating and informative analysis of the law of immunity for federal prosecutors from such actions (a Bivens-type claim).  While the full facts and findings of the court are too long to report here, I commend to your reading the full decision of the court.

Here are some of the essential allegations of the civil complaint:

On August 30, 2007, Koubriti filed the present action. In his complaint–which named Convertino, Thomas, and Ray Smith8 as co-defendants–Koubriti seeks relief pursuant to the Fifth Amendment and Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of theFederal Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971).  Koubriti requested $9,000,000 in compensatory damages plus punitive damages arguing that: Defendants violated his Fifth Amendment Rights by maliciously and intentionally withholding exculpatory evidence and fabricating evidence contrary to Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83, 87 (1963), prior to and during his prosecution for the offense of conspiracy to provide materials for or resources to terrorists contrary to 18 U.S.C. §§ 371 and 2339(e). The complaint then sets out the following claims with respect to Convertino’s liability:

Defendant Convertino while acting in an investigative type role withheld exculpatory evidence or fabricated evidence in the Plaintiff’s criminal case by:

  • Failing to turn over photographs of the Queen Alia Hospital or ordering that they not be turned over to the Defendant or presented to the Grand Jury;
  • Failing to disclose that none of the Defendants could establish which site or sites the sketches established (if either) after their respective trips to Jordan;
  • Ordering or directing Defendant Thomas not to memorialize any of the ten to twenty interviews of Yousif Hnimssa [sic] prior to the Second Superseding Indictment being issued;
  • Failing to disclose the Opinion of Air Force OSISA Goodnight to the Grand Jury or Plaintiff concerning the alleged Incirlik Air Base sketches.

While the details can be a bit confusing without reading the entire opinion, suffice it to say (for the sake of brevity), this civil action was brought to seek redress for the prosecutor’s actions, which led to his government employment termination, criminal charges against him ( he was acquitted) and a bar investigation (which did not lead to any licensing charges).

If you are considering bringing (either as a plaintiff or an attorney) such a lawsuit for non-disclosure of Brady materials, you would be well advised to read this decision and the cases cited in it – first.