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.