The seven Florida teens who filmed a brutal attack on Victoria Lindsay, 16, for the YouTube video shown below will be charged as adults and could see some serious jail time. Mercades Nichols, 17, Brittini Hardcastle, 17, and Britney Mayes, 17, will face charges of felonious battery, false imprisonment and kidnapping in connection with the attack. Cara Murphy, 16, Kayla Hassell, 15, April Cooper, 14, Zachary Ashley, 17, and Stephen Schumaker, 18, will face charges of felonious battery and false imprisonment. Now, an innocent couple (thought to be the parents of Zachary Ashley) have been hounded when their telephone number was posted on YouTube.
The attack occurred on on March 30 when Lindsay arrived at a friend’s home. For the video, click here.
The video clearly shows not just the unprovoked attacks but by the barring of Lindsay’s attempts to leave. Kidnapping is harder to square, but is hardly needed. I have received inquiries about the false imprisonment charge. This charge works a little differently under criminal law than torts. However, the refusal to allow Lindsay to leave satisfies the elements of both in this case. If she was simply being attacked, it would have been harder. However, the portion of the video showing one girls putting her hand on the door and stopping Lindsay is probably sufficient. Indeed, Lindsay could sue in tort for battery, false imprisonment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and assault.
There also appear to be charged of witness tampering in the criminal case.
In another interesting twist, a Florida couple’n telephone number was mistakenly or maliciously posted by a YouTube poster with the number of the teens in the beating. Darlene and Jerry Ashley have received hundreds of irate calls. This is not the first such case, but the Ashley will have difficulty proceeding against YouTube for not taking down the number immediately. In the case of Zeran v. AOL, the Fourth Circuit rejected an appeal of a man who was mistakenly identified as the source of obnoxious teeshirts following the Oklahoma City bombing. He informed AOL of the mistake, but the company refused to take down the posting. A radio station later gave out his telephone number. Shortly after the Oklahoma City bombing, an unknown person posted messages onto an AOL bulletin board falsely implicating Zeran. Zeran filed a lawsuit against AOL for the allegedly defamatory postings. The case concerned the question of whether AOL may be liable for allegedly being unreasonably slow to remove a series of allegedly defamatory messages posted on AOL message boards by an unidentified third party.
The United States District Court for Eastern District of Virginia granted judgment in favor of AOL, on the basis of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, the “Good Samaritan” provision, which protects providers of interactive computer services from liability for defamatory information posted on the network by a third party. The Fourth Circuit agreed with the dismissal, citing Section 230(c)(1), which states that “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.”
To make matters worse, when Zeran sued the radio station, his claim was viewed as valid but he was unable to show specific damages in defamation to collect anything. Clearly, however, the Ashley’s can sue the original poster if they could find him or her. This would have to be done by subpoena or with the assistance of the police, as in the recent CraigsList case, click here.
This case is the perfect storm of the new Internet cases. It involves an attack that was intended for YouTube but triggered allegedly on statements made by Lindsay on MySpace and ultimately implicated the wrong couple on a posting.