California Court Upholds Conviction of Person for Twitter Incitement [Corrected] Against Ex-Wife #NCIS Actresss

People v. Shivers (Appellate Division of LA Superior Court):


The circumstantial evidence was sufficient to permit a reasonable trier of fact to conclude defendant acted with intent to incite or produce unlawful action by a third party who read his messages. Defendant electronically distributed messages about Perrette using Twitter, which, as shown by the evidence at trial, is a public social networking website on the Internet where users can write and respond to short messages. Twitter constituted an “electronic communication device” within the meaning of the prohibited communications statute. (See Pen. Code, § 653.2, subd. (b) [including Internet web pages and websites within the definition of “electronic communication device”].) The evidence showed a person‟s tweets posted on Twitter can be read by the public and spread to the websites of other Twitter users by being retweeted, so that a single tweet may be repeated and disseminated throughout numerous web pages accessible to the public.

Defendant posted messages on Twitter such that persons searching for Perrette‟s name could find his tweets. Also, by using a hashtag for the show (“#NCIS”) and the location (“#Cahuenga”), third parties searching on Twitter would also come across defendant‟s tweets. Several of the tweets were made in response to persons who had read defendant‟s tweets, and other tweets had been retweeted by third parties, indicating to defendant that third parties were accessing the information he posted and his tweets were being disseminated. The tweets leading up to the ones posted on July 4 and July 8, 2012, falsely indicated that defendant had a restraining order against Perrette and that she was stalking him and making death threats against him. The July 4 and July 8, 2012 tweets referenced the area of Cahuenga where Perrette lived. These tweets also referred to Perrette as defendant‟s “stalker,” and requested that readers “call LAPD!!!” and “report her to LAPD immediately!” if they saw her following him in the area. It can be inferred defendant knew that persons who encountered Perrette after reading his tweets could have been motivated to report her to the police for what they believed was her stalking him, or to otherwise harass her. (See Pen. Code, § 653.2, subd. (c)(1) [defining “harassment” as “conduct directed at a specific person that a reasonable person would consider as seriously alarming, seriously annoying, seriously tormenting, or seriously terrorizing the person”].) Given the nature of Twitter and the provocative contents of defendant‟s tweets, a reasonable trier of fact could conclude defendant posted his tweets with the specific intent to incite or produce unwanted physical contact, injury, or harassment at the hands of a third party.

Share this: