Samuel Goldberg has been a Massachusetts criminal defense attorney for 20 years. Prior to that, he was a New York state prosecutor. He has published various articles regarding the practice of criminal law and frequently provides legal analysis on radio and television, appearing on outlets such as the Fox News Channel, Court TV, MSNBC and The BBC Network. To speak to Sam about a criminal matter call (617) 492 3000.

15 YEAR OLD GIRL IS ARRESTED AND CHARGED IN WORCESTER FOR SCHOOL THREATS

Today’s Attorney Sam’s Take introduces a concept that law enforcement officials and I regularly discussed back when I was a prosecutor in Brooklyn, NY, hundreds of years ago.

The concept is that of enacting a new statute proclaiming certain activities punishable as “felony stupidity”. It is, however a story which reflects where we are as a society at the moment.

Especially when it comes to new cyber-crimes.

Worcester police are investiginvest what is being called a “hit list” with the names of 200 city high school students on it. Of course, as this is being investigated, there are cyber breadcrumbs to be found along the way.

Take what happenned at South High Shool last week for example. They took a 15-year-old young lady into custody. She has been charged with two counts of being an accessory before the fact. The police admit, however, that there is no “imminent threat” at the school.

Well, except for the young lady, that is, who now has markings on her CORI.

Apparently, one of the complaints that sparked the investigation was parents alerating law enforcement about a series of social media messages. One of these thretening messages, which led to the above-mentioned arrest, was that the teen asked in a tweet if someone would “please” spray her high school with bullets.

“We’re trying to get the message out to these kids that when they use these social media platforms, they have to use caution and common sense when they’re posting things,” said Sgt. Kerry Hazelhurst, a department spokesman. “They don’t truly understand the ramifications when they put out something like that.”

Of course, police say that the rumor indicates more serious threats. They said they received three calls about possible threats from parents last Wednesday who told cops that “numerous people” were posting messages on Facebook and Twitter referencing a possible “hit list” with the names of students “who were going to die at South High on Friday.”

According to police, one Facebook posting read: “Word on the street is that there is a hit list of 200 people who are going to die Friday at South. Oh God. Doe (sic) we really need more tragedy? People need Jesus.”

Police said that the message from the above-referenced young lady, re-tweeted for “hundreds, if not thousands” to see, had sparked panic across several social media sites.

South High School Council member Maria Gazaille, said three of her six children go to the school and she received an automated message from the school’s principal explaining the scare that calmed her concerns. The council is a school advisory group made up of teachers, parents, the principal , a student and a community member. Gazaille said the strong police presence at the school yesterday afternoon and this morning further reassured her.

“I did feel safe sending them to school, and I’m a nervous minerva. I worry about everything, and even I said they weren’t in danger,” Gazaille, a mother of six, said. “I don’t think it was of any concern for anybody…I’m sure it’s going on at a lot of schools because some kids don’t get a lot of values, a lot of morals, they blab their mouths and get in trouble.” In the current atmosphere, Gazaille said, an offhand remark can be circulated, ending up sounding more serious that it was first intended.

Police continue to try to determine whether a hit list exists.

“There wasn’t a specific threat made when they talked about this so-called hit list,” Hazelhurst said. “It was vague in nature, and we’re still working on trying to determine if there was anything to it.

So, if there is no real threat, why is one girl (so far) arrested and everyone reacting in panic? Does this whole thing come down to a mere rumor?

“It’s students overhearing students talk, based on allegations made by others,” Hazelhurst said. “We spent a lot of time with the (school) administration yesterday working with them.”

Yep, that sounds like a rumor, all right.

Can simple rumors really be the new foundation of criminal investigations ans even arrest?

Let’s discuss that tomorrow when We discuss tragedies and rumors.

To view the original story upon which this blog is based, please go to http://bostonherald.com/news_opinion/local_coverage/2012/12/worcester_cops_probe_rumor_’hit_list’_high_school

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