Louisiana Mom Charged Criminally For Sharing Video Of Fight At Son’s School

While we discussed another Louisiana case involving the attempted killing of a llama, there is an equally interesting case out of Lafayette (where I once lived) involving Maegan Adkins-Barras, 32. Adkins-Barras has been charged on an obscure state law for sharing a videotape of a fight at her son’s high school. The case raises some significant constitutional concerns.

Adkins-Barras, 32, was not present for the fight at Acadiana High School in Lafayette but found the footage on her son’s cellphone. She posted it to social media and it was then shared extensively. It showed a student throwing a punch that knocked down another boy. The second boy fell and hit his head on a concrete bench and was taken to the hospital.

You can see the video here. Both boys were also charged.

Lafayette police arrested the mother and insisted that “Parents who receive information concerning criminal activity on school campuses are urged to contact their local police department or school administration/ Posting videos and photos of illegal activity on social media is against the law in the State of Louisiana.” The Acadiana Advocate reports that Scott Police Chief Chad Leger is no longer speaking about the case which is causing rising outrage.

Adkins-Barras is a mother of three children with a husband who is ain a coma. According to Heavy.com, Adkins-Barras created a GoFundMe to help her pay for the treatment her husband Joshua for anoxic brain injury from last November.

She is now in jail for sharing a videotape of a fight with a court date at 1 p.m. on February 21. She faces a $500 fine and up to six months in jail, though jail time is unlikely.

She is being charged under a statute passed in 2008 and updated in 2011. It is a poorly conceived law that criminalizes the “Unlawful posting of criminal activity for notoriety and publicity”:

§107.4. Unlawful posting of criminal activity for notoriety and publicity

A. It shall be unlawful for a person who is either a principal or accessory to a crime to obtain an image of the commission of the crime using any camera, videotape, photo-optical, photo-electric, or any other image recording device and to transfer that image obtained during the commission of the crime by the use of a computer online service, Internet service, or any other means of electronic communication, including but not limited to a local bulletin board service, Internet chat room, electronic mail, or online messaging service for the purpose of gaining notoriety, publicity, or the attention of the public.

B. Whoever violates the provisions of this Section shall be fined not more than five hundred dollars or imprisoned for not more than six months, or both.

C. The provisions of this Section shall not apply to any of the following:

(1) The obtaining, use, or transference of such images by a telephone company, cable television company, or any of its affiliates, an Internet provider, or commercial online service provider, or to the carrying, broadcasting, or performing of related activities in providing telephone, cable television, Internet, or commercial online services or in the production, exhibition, or presentation of an audiovisual work in any medium, including but not limited to a motion picture or television program.

(2) The obtaining, use, or transference of images by a law enforcement officer pursuant to investigation of criminal activity.

(3) The obtaining, use, or transference of images by any bona fide member of the news media broadcasting a news report through television, cable television, or other telecommunication.

(4) The obtaining, use, or transference of images for use in a feature-length film, short subject film, video, television series, television program, public service announcement, or commercial.

D. After the institution of prosecution, access to, and the disposition of any material seized as evidence of this offense shall be in accordance with R.S. 46:1845.

E. Any evidence resulting from the commission of unlawful filming or recording criminal activity shall be contraband.

Acts 2008, No. 660, §1.

‌In my view, the law would be unconstitutional as applied in this case. However, the crime is more likely to be tossed out on the elements. Note the leading language: “who is either a principal or accessory to a crime.” How is she a principal or accessory to a crime?

The law itself passed unanimously in both houses and was signed signed into law by then-Governor Bobby Jindal. It lacks key definitions and a clear need. It is unlikely that someone committing these crimes would know of or be deterred by such a law. Yet, Rep. Barbara Norton, a Democrat, introduced the bill to combat what she saw as a “recent trend” of felons posting crimes to “gain notoriety” and “reputation.” She declared “In the world that we live in today there are many, many things that are going on with our young people. … When I look at the internet and I see young people taking the opportunity to gather against one person and how they commit battery by beating this person and at the same time you look on TV and the internet and you see their pictures throughout the country and their pictures in the newspaper all over TV.” 

The law is unnecessary and this case shows how easily it can be used for unconstitutional purposes or applications. No this mother with a husband in a coma and three kids at home will have to face a criminal prosecution for sharing a video. Hardly a victory for law and order.

Maegan Adkins Barras

30 thoughts on “Louisiana Mom Charged Criminally For Sharing Video Of Fight At Son’s School”

  1. The Police Chief should be in jail. To jail a mother of 3 with a dangerously ill husband over a video of students fighting is what happens in Cuba or China. The top cop is unfit as a public servant. He failed the test.

  2. I think the law is unconstitutional. What is wrong with them locking up a Mom with her husband in a coma for something like that?

    1. She has been released from jail

      “Mom who posted video of school fight released from jail; lawyers weigh in”

      I read JT’s blog early mornings and this article stayed with me all day.

      Note to JT: post articles that show us what is right in the world, even in legal circles. I realize “when it bleeds it leads” is a truism of “journalism”. But truly you are no better than CNN with your constant negative news.

      1. Thank you for the update. I cannot express how much this story troubled me. With everything the family is going through, I wondered if her 3 kids were put in foster care while she was in jail.

        What was the context of this story? Did she post the video complaining about a criminal element or violence at her son’s school? Is this revenge from the school? I did not watch the video due to limited bandwidth.

        I believe it is unconstitutional to prohibit someone from posting a video like that. In addition, why would they want to prohibit criminals from filming and uploading their crimes? It makes it so much easier to convict them. Admit your guilt on the internet all day long. I can understand from the victim’s point of view how filming and uploading their attack is harassment. I do not see a way around either the constitutional issue, especially for bystanders, or the capacity for such laws to be misused, as in this case.

  3. I almost expected that the charges would at least spur more donations on the gofundme page for her husband. But it seems to not be the case she will receive enough funding quickly as a result of the publicity.

    1. It sounds like her husband has been in a coma for months, and wonder if there is hope in his regaining consciousness.

  4. The judge needs to be kicked off the bench. The prosecutor needs to be expelled. She needs to file a civil rights law suit for damages and punitive damages. Posting an image is a right of free speech. You do not have to be the New York Tiimes to obtain that protection under the Frst Amendment. Free speech, free press, free association, and right to equal protection. 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 and additional sections.

    1. That state law cited in the article has an exception for the news media. There is no constitutional barrier between “news media” and people publishing news. Sign on my fence says Dump Trump.

    2. They need to do something about this law no matter what. I can understand the desire to protect victims of violent crimes from the harassment of their tormenter posting videos of the attack. However, I cannot see a way around the constitutional issues, or the scope for abuse of the law.

    1. The possible new charges are constitutionally suspect as well, certainly as applied and likely on their face.

      Sounds like the DA is interested in CYA for the police and the school board too. These dudes gotta stick together. The process is the punishment.

  5. I agree with our host that the elements of the crime alleged were not met by the state, how was this woman an accessory to the assault crime? I also agree with Mike Appleton that this law is unconstitutional per se. Why is it illegal for some citizens to post these videos but the press is exempted? Cannot we as a society founded on free speech be our own reporters?

    Yet from a practical perspective why proscribe the posting of images and videos of crimes by criminal actors? It surely makes the detection of prosecution of the offenders much easier for the police.

    1. Putting aside the constitutional objections, it would interesting to argue the exemption in Section (4). The woman posted a public service announcement calling attention to the lack of security and horrific violence in her local schools. Then again, maybe the exemption only applies to woke film makers like Michael Moore, Spike Lee, or those college kids who posted the destruction of historical monuments in New Orleans.

  6. Prof. Turley’s comments are well taken. However, my view is that the statute is unconstitutional per se.

    1. “However, my view is that the statute is unconstitutional per se.”

      I don’t think many will disagree but why don’t you state the elements that make it unconstitutional.

        1. Mike, I wasn’t trying to put you in a position. Lay people decide right and wrong frequently based on what they believe is fair, but fairness has nothing to do with the law unless there jury nullification. This seems like a basic right so I thought the elements would put things in an appropriate perspective.

          Good luck with your wall piece.

          1. Fair enough. As a general principle, I am opposed to utilizing purpose tests when evaluating free speech issues. In other words, with very limited exceptions (such as incitement), the motives of the speaker are immaterial if the speech is otherwise protected under the First Amendment. That is why I oppose hate speech regulations, campus speech codes and other restrictions intended to protect the sensibilities of the hearer. It is also why I have argued against hate crime legislation: the motives behind a criminal act should be deemed material only at the sentencing stage of a case.

            In the case of this story, I also believe that the statute is unconstitutionally vague and ambiguous. For example, what other purpose can there be for publishing a video other than to gain “the attention of the public”?

            1. “what other purpose can there be for publishing a video other than to gain “the attention of the public”?”

              Thanks for your opinion. This example is so obvious that one may not think of it. I dertainly didn’t.

  7. In Alabama they say, “Thank God for Mississippi”
    In Virginia they say “Thank God for Louisiana”

    Our legal system is in tatters. This is seriously tragic. The woman’s husband is in a coma, anoxic brain injury which means little chance of normal recovery if ever, along with children, and the COP doesn’t want to discuss the case. Holy Sheet. What a mess this kuntry is! We are off the rails.

    Dear Queen Elizabeth II: take us back!

  8. It’s a reasonable wager that someone in the school system was embarrassed by this and grassed prevailed on his buddy the sheriff to have her jailed. In re the educational apparat, you should assume they’re dishonorable bureaucratic microbes until they prove otherwise.

    1. At least nobody in the state will even think of doing this again. The process is the punishment.

      First amendment be damned.

  9. Thank you for posting a link to the video.

    Those with a modicum of intellectual honesty will instantly recognize that the application of the statute in this case is not content neutral. Not that we should expect a court to touch that argument with a 10 foot pole, lest the wrath of the woke descend to crush those reprobates from backwoods Louisiana.

    Put aside for a moment the fact that the mother does not appear to be a principal or an accessory to the crime, or to be seeking notoriety from the post, per the plain language of the statute. There’s a good argument that the mother’s social media posting was in furtherance of a public service announcement within the meaning of exception (4). Not sure how you feel, but I would sure like to know how whether the school is able to maintain some degree of discipline, and if my son or daughter risks getting the living shit kicked out of him (or her) at school. But here comes that nasty 10 foot pole, this time with a sharpened point aimed directly at your eye.

    Mom is a film maker, you ask? You mean like Michael Moore, Spike Lee or some aspiring student filming the destruction of a public monument in New Orleans? No, sayeth the woke, she is just what you expect when you drag a $100 bill through a trailer park. As the old Russian saying goes, show me the (wo)man and I’ll show you the crime. Or, just as good, the process is the punishment.

    Apparently we should leave it to our betters – in this case the police and the school board – to decide what we should and shouldn’t see. In a reasonable world, the ACLU would be all over this one.

  10. “She is now in jail … this mother with a husband in a coma and three kids at home will have to face a criminal prosecution for sharing a video.”

    Jussie Smollette is out of jail and the news media of the left would love to give him a pass.

  11. The general public has a right to post such things. Obviously, the police would like to see that this law is passed and then they are protected from the public. It is a bad law and this woman has been chosen to make an example of while she has important matters to attend. Regarding this, did she even know about this law before posting it and will that make a difference?

  12. Most likely the Lafayette cops just wanted to keep this attractive woman around a while. SMH!

  13. Sherrif Mark Garner’s name appears on this mug shot. He should be called out for the dumbass he is for arresting this mother.

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