People v. Fernino, — N.Y.S.2d —-, 2008 WL 382348 (N.Y.City Crim.Ct. February 13, 2008)
An order of protection, issued by a New York family court, required that defendant Fernino have no contact with a certain Delgrosso. After Fernino added Delgrosso as a “friend” on MySpace, she was charged with contempt of court for allegedly violating the order of protection.
Fernino moved to dismiss the criminal complaint against her, arguing that even if the allegations were true, the purported “contact” through “friending” Degrosso would not support a conviction on the charges. The court denied the motion to dismiss.
Finding that adding Delgrosso as a friend in the social networking context was prohibited “contact,” the court cited to People v. Kochanowski, 186 Misc.2d 441, 442 (App Term, 2nd Dept 2000) and People v. Johnson, 208 A.D.2d 1051 (3rd Dept 1994). In Kochanowski, the appellate court affirmed the harassment conviction of a defendant who participated in building a bogus Web site containing, among other things, alluring pictures of his ex-girlfriend. In Johnson, the court held that the defendant committed aggravated harassment by responding to a personal ad in the victim’s name, causing the person placing the ad to contact the victim.
In this case, the court observed that even though Delgrosso could have simply denied the friend request, it was still a form of contact. It found that the form of communication was no different from the defendant having a third party say to Delgrosso, “Your former friend wants to communicate with you. Are you interested?”
It should also be noted that the court cited approvingly to Wikipedia for a description of MySpace and to Alexa for information about MySpace’s popularity.
Mark Fass of the New York Law Journal has more on this case here. The MyCrimeSpace blog has its take on the case here. Also found on MyCrimeSpace is this article from last year about a poor chap in the UK who was found to have violated a restraining order for friending his ex-wife on Facebook.