We have been following the growing menace of flash mob attacks on stores where teenagers descend on a store, trash its interior, and steal merchandise — only to vanish with the arrival of police. However, in the case of a trashed Macon Wal-Mart, police say that they not only have videotapes of the mob but one of its leaders, Kharron Nathan Green, 17, who made the mistake of returning to retrieve his cellphone.
In a flash mob case, the cellphone is critical evidence of course. In this case, the mob hit the Wal-Mart late at night with four dozen people, including people flashing gang signs. Teens attacked a man on a motorized shopping cart and did $2000 damage.
Green is identified in the surveillance video as leading a mob of teens in the planned attack. However, he denied any knowledge at the police station until his parents arrived and were shown the videotape. He then admitted his involvement but refused to name anyone else. However, with the phone and the identification of the leader, police have much more than they usually have in such cases. The question is how hard the Macon police will push to prosecute the other teenagers. This is a crime that is growing due to the lack of deterrence through prosecutions.
As for Green, his lack of cooperation on naming other culprits could seriously undermine an effort to plead guilty for a lower sentence. The phone itself is now likely to be introduced as evidence of a premeditated act of rioting.
The choice of a second degree charge on property damage is interesting. Here is the code provision:
1st Degree Criminal Damage to Property
You could be charged with criminal damage to property in the 1st degree if the prosecution has probable cause to believe you did one of the following:
1. Knowingly and without authority interfered with property in a way to endanger human life, or
2. Knowingly and without authority and by use of force or violence interfered with the operation of any public communication or transportation system, sewer, drainage, water supply, gas, or other public utility.
First degree criminal damage to property is a felony and carries a potential sentence of 1 to 10 years in prison.
Ref: O.C.G.A. §16-7-22
Given the attack on the shopper, it is possible to claim the first criteria, but police may have concluded that Green was not directly involved in that attack and the second criteria does not appear relevant.