Pacheco Perez P.A.

Man convicted on counts of threatening wife, others on Facebook

We have informed our readers in prior blog posts about the growing relevance and importance of social networking sites and activity in many divorce disputes.

The bottom line is simple and easily stated: Many people lack appreciation for how their online presence can be evaluated and used in a judicial proceeding regarding important matters such as child custody and visitation, alimony and a host of other divorce-related considerations.

A recent case from Pennsylvania goes far toward demonstrating that point. An estranged husband has just been found guilty by a federal jury of four counts of threatening his wife and other parties on Facebook. He has not yet been sentenced on the charges.

The jury rejected the defendant's arguments that he was simply engaging in artistic expression and using elements of his life "fictitiously." Jurors found unpersuasive his claim that the comments he directed at his ex-spouse, the FBI, the Pennsylvania State Police and a kindergarten class were "therapeutic" for him and never intended to be taken literally.

The defendant told the court that his comments were not "true threats," but, instead, clear exaggerations uttered in moments of anger precipitated by his separation from his wife and children and the loss of his job.

One of the defendant's comments was posted following a "protection from abuse" (PFA) order granted by a judge in favor of his wife. The man wrote this: "Fold up your PFA and put it in your pocket. Is it thick enough to stop a bullet?"

The man was charged under a federal statute that criminalizes communications in interstate commerce that threaten "to injure the person of another."

Source: Legal Intelligencer, "Jury convicts on four of five counts in Facebook threat case" Oct. 21, 2011

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