Peggy Wright reports:
A Belleville woman is testing New Jersey’s law on identity theft by claiming it doesn’t apply to her alleged creation of a Facebook profile in the name of an ex-boyfriend who is a Parsippany police detective.
Dana Thornton, 41, was indicted last year in Morris County on one count of fourth-degree identity theft, which is punishable upon conviction by up to 18 months in prison. The indictment and court papers allege that Thornton, after her dating relationship with Parsippany Detective Michael Lasalandra ended, created a Facebook page using his name and birth date, and posted photographs of him and comments.
The alleged false comments, written as though Lasalandra was their author, disparage his lifestyle choices and career. Lasalandra declined comment on the case Tuesday.
Defense lawyer Richard M. Roberts has filed a motion to dismiss the indictment in state Superior Court, Morristown, contending that the charge is deficient by failing to provide any facts that Thornton committed a crime under the statute. Unlike New York state law, New Jersey’s statute on identity theft or impersonation is silent on whether it applies to Facebook and other social media and electronic devices, the defense motion said.
“Most importantly, in New Jersey no courts have ever ruled that creating a profile of anyone online, without the individual’s consent, constitutes false impersonation,” the motion said. At most, Roberts argues, Thornton violated an agreement with Facebook that says no one can provide any false personal information or create an account for anyone other than themself without permission.
Read more on The Daily Record.
I think this is the relevant New Jersey statute. And it seems to me that it would cover the online impersonation alleged to have occurred. The statute says, in relevant part:
(1) Impersonates another or assumes a false identity and does an act in such assumed character or false identity for the purpose of obtaining a benefit for himself or another or to injure or defraud another;
“Benefit” means, but is not limited to, any property, any pecuniary amount, any services, any pecuniary amount sought to be avoided or any injury or harm perpetrated on another where there is no pecuniary value.
Read the statute and see what you think. It’s true that it doesn’t specifically mention online, but then again, it doesn’t specifically exclude online or say that it only applies to offline.
All that said, I would probably prefer to see these cases handled as online harassment than identity theft.