In Massachusetts and beyond, criminal defense attorneys are seeing more and more arrests being linked to the recent scrutiny of Craigslist. Last week, we spoke of the matter of the “Craigslist Killer” and the attention he has brought to the website’s listing of sexually enticing advertisements. Now, it seems, the website is everywhere and eagerly mentioned when a resulting criminal matter goes to press.
For example, let’s take the case of 42-year-old Deryck R. (hereinafter, “Defendant 1”). He is, or was, a roommate to two sisters in Quincy. They now allege that, as one of the sisters stepped out of the shower, Defendant 1 was pointing a cell phone camera in her direction, filming her. The sisters called the police, who searched the apartment and found video equipment, laptops and a camcorder in Defendant 1’s room.
The sisters had found Defendant 1 through Craigslist. The headline of the story posted by Channel 7 News was “Craigslist roommate arrested after spying“.
In Hauppauge, New York, there was a dispute between two Long Island 9-year-olds. Naturally, the parents had to get involved, and so criminal charges have resulted. Craigslist again was involved and so the headline was ” N.Y. Mom Arrested After Phony Craigslist Post“.
Suffolk County Police say that Margery T., the mother of one of the girls (hereinafter, “Defendant 2”) now faces charges for aggravated harassment after she listed an ad on the Craigslist entitled, “Looking for a good time?-w4m 21.” Apparently, when people would respond to the ad by email, Defendant 2 would give them the phone number for one of her daughter’s rivals, which generated harassing telephone calls to that home.
And then there is the headline of “Rochester woman victimized by fake prostitution ads – was swamped with calls after someone posted her phone numbers on Craigslist“.
In this tale from Rochester, New York, which is alleged to have taken place over a year ago, a 30-year-old mother of four suddenly became inundated with calls from men thinking she was offering sex for cash. She soon learned that someone had falsely posted her cell phone and home numbers on six different ads on Craigslist’s “erotic services” webpage indicating she was selling sex for money.
“The phones were ringing every two minutes and it was disgusting. I stopped answering right away because I knew what they wanted. I was physically sick and couldn’t stop shaking,” she said about the resulting hundreds of calls from men from all over New England.
While the complainant says she has a good idea who placed the ads the investigation has been suspended as it has not produced an arrest.
Police say that Craigslist was cooperative in providing police with evidence of the ads and police were able to determine the computer they were generated on, but he said such Internet fraud investigations can be difficult in producing arrests.
The crime apparently occurred back in early 2008. The posting of the news story mentioning Craigslist was posted this past Saturday.
The complainant is now among those speaking out against Craigslist, saying that the site needs to take down an “erotic services” portion of its page that allows anyone to post whatever they want with little accountability.
Leah said the incident involving her numbers being placed on explicit ads was nothing short of “horrifying.”
She was living with her husband, grandmother and three children at the time and feared for the entire family because of the ability of people to trace people’s phone numbers and find their identity.
She said her name was never posted on the Craigslist ads, but she was sure someone could likely find her if they wanted to. She further said that the incident required her to seek therapy because of the anxiety she felt surrounding who might be trying to find her.
Apparently, the calls halted when the ads were taken down 45 days after posting.
Attorney Sam’s Take:
If the investigation in this last matter has been suspended, and the event took place and, actually, ended over a year ago, why is it hitting the press now?
As I have indicated in the past, criminal matters, and the attention they inspire, change from time to time in terms of perceived interest of the public and, so, sensitivity by the press and police. Particularly since the “Craigslist Killer” stories, any crime tied to Craigslist is now given extra attention.
It is a smaller version of types of crimes, such as “hate crimes”, “domestic violence crimes” and the like that are shown extra scrutiny by the courts and law enforcement.
This is not to suggest that the crimes that are involved in these stories are not noteworthy and, particularly to those involved, worth fully prosecuting. According to the allegations, there are victims in these stories who have indeed been harmed.
However, while, in the past, they might have been attended to less publically, they are now given more attention because of the Craigslist connection…no matter how minimal the site’s involvement might be, such as in the case of finding a roommate from the site.
What does this have to do with you in terms of criminal law?
You want to be aware of these things as you go about your everyday activity. What you are engaged in today, legal, illegal or on that fine line, could become the subject of extra scrutiny down the road.
This is particularly true in matters easily misunderstood…such as in the case of white collar crimes. As we have discussed in the past, something that was absolutely innocent at the time could, in the future, be misunderstood, particularly if an investigation for similar activities on the part of someone else is going on.
It is all a way of suggesting that, as you begin the new week, be aware of what you do and how it could look. If there is any question of legality, or if you suspect an investigation might be underway that could include you, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney. Many such attorneys provide a free initial consultation as we do at Altman & Altman, P.C.
Take advantage of it. Maybe it will just help you sleep better at night.
Perhaps it will make the difference of whether you will sleep at home or in Commonwealth housing!
The full articles of this story can be found at http://www1.whdh.com/news/articles/local/BO112883/, http://www.dailyrecord.com/article/20090509/UPDATES01/905090356 and http://www.fosters.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20090509/GJNEWS_01/705099917