As reported by the Daily Record; a New Jersey woman still faces charges this week in a case of first impression in an identity theft indictment. Dana Thornton, 41, is being accused of impersonating her ex-boyfriend, Parsippany Detective Michael Lasalandra, by creating a Facebook page in his likeness. The Facebook account, created in 2009, contained modified images of Lasalandra as well as derogatory comments seemingly made by him. Thornton was indicted in August 2010 by a Morris County grand jury on a fourth-degree charge of identity theft, which is punishable upon conviction by up to 18 months in prison.
Thornton’s defense attorney, Richard Roberts is claiming that New Jersey’s statute does not apply to her case because, “it does not specifically address impersonation through the use of social media or the Internet.”
Superior Court Judge David Ironson has ruled that this defense “lacks merit” and will uphold the conviction. Judge Ironson has stated that the Internet is a means of accomplishing a goal of impersonation, but just because New Jersey’s law doesn’t specifically mention it as a vehicle to impersonate doesn’t mean the statute doesn’t apply to Thornton’s alleged conduct.
So although the New Jersey statute doesn’t specifically mention “Social Media” in its wording, we must be able interpret the law accordingly. Social Media is a form of communication and what is said and published there is comparable with impersonation in print or in person.
Prosecutors have argued that although the statue doesn’t “include or exclude electronic communications it is applicable to a broad spectrum of impersonation techniques.” Ms. Thornton has allegedly assumed the identity of another person and acted to injure Lasalandra’s reputation and career as a police officer. This can be done through multiple mediums and Facebook is no different in this aspect.
States like New York and California have amended their own impersonation statutes to include “Social Media” in its text. Thornton’s defense team is arguing that these states dismissed cases like Thornton’s until those laws were amended. New Jersey does currently have a bill in congress to adjust their original statute, but Morris County prosecutors and Judge alike agree that this is a clarification of the existing statute. They still interpret the existing law to include all mediums, including the ever-growing world of Social Media.