Monday, May 9, 2011

Can a Facebook 'poke' be a threat?

A federal court is grabbling with the question whether a Facebook "poke" can constitute a threat. According to the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle:

Today, a federal prosecutor asked that bail be revoked for Richard "Eric" Riedman, who authorities allege is a member of the Hell's Angels. Riedman is awaiting trial on allegations that he and others stole scrap metal from a CSX railroad yard. An earlier trial on the charges ended up with a hung jury....

Assistant U.S. Attorney Brett Harvey contended that Riedman's bail should be revoked ...because he allegedly "poked" a cooperating witness -- Christopher Monfort -- through Facebook....

Authorities allege that Riedman was ordered not to have contact with Monfort, who testified for almost nine days in the earlier scrap metal trial. They also allege that the Facebook "poke" could be the basis of a criminal charge of tampering with a witness.

U.S. District Judge Charles Siragusa questioned today why prosecutors didn't criminally charge Riedman if they believed they had sufficient proof he had tried to intimidate a witness. Harvey said prosecutors might not have enough evidence to prove guilt because Riedman's computer is now being monitored after being seized.

Harvey acknowledged, "This isn't a straightforward ... threat."