Live-streaming crimes

Live-streaming crimes

These days, social media documents practically everything we do, from birthday parties to vacations and weddings. Now it appears that people are using Facebook, Periscope, and other Internet platforms to live stream their crimes.

In April of 2016, 18-year-old Marina Lonina and 29-year-old Raymond Gates, both residents of Ohio, were arrested after Gates raped Lonina’s underage friend while she used Periscope to live stream the assault. Lonina, who could be seen laughing in excitement over the number of “likes” she was getting, was sentenced to nine months in custody while Gates received a nine-year prison sentence.

This incident, which drew public attention to social media as a crime-broadcasting platform, aroused disgust and disbelief, but there was more to come.

  • In January, 2017 two men and two women physically and verbally abused a mentally disabled man while one of the women live streamed the attack on Facebook.
  • That same month, three men in Sweden were arrested after live streaming the rape of a woman to a private Facebook group.
  • On April 16, 2017, 74-year-old Robert Godwin Senior was shot to death in Cleveland and the video of his death uploaded to Facebook, which took three hours to respond and take it down. During that time, hundreds if not thousands of users had copied and distributed the video. Godwin’s family sued the social media giant for failing to take action after the killer made death threats on the site.

Demands arose for the justice system to do something about it, despite the difficulties of identifying and apprehending offenders who were only witnessed on a computer or phone screen. One politician who responded was New York State Senator Phil Boyle, who has introduced a bill to make uploading or live streaming a video on social media a crime, provided it was done to seek fame or glorify violence.

Senator Boyle said that he wanted to prevent what he called “attention-hungry criminals” from celebrating their acts online. If passed, it will be a Class E felony to intentionally record or help someone else record video while committing a violent felony. If convicted, violators could be fined $5,000 and face up to four years in state prison. News companies covering a story or witnesses filming a crime in progress would be exempted from the law.

It is not only killers and rapists who are using social media to “go public” and satisfy a craving for violence on the part of some people. The live streaming of suicides is becoming more common, and criminal gangs are using Facebook and other social media outlets to insult and threaten each other, an act known as “Internet banging.” It’s a phenomenon that is forcing the criminal justice system into the digital age more quickly.

If you are facing criminal charges, or are concerned that you are, then it is best to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney. Do not issue a statement to the police or to a prosecutor if you are under investigation. Rather, contact an attorney who has your—and only your—best interest at heart. Julie Rendelman is a seasoned lawyer who handles criminal law cases. She is a former prosecutor with more than 20 years of legal experience. Call 212-951-1232 for a free consultation with Ms. Rendelman to review your legal options and craft a defense strategy.