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Friday, 31 July 2009 11:54

Watch what you do with your hands on Myspace

Written by Nick Farell

Image

Florida will arrest you

A Bloke
who called himself “King Kamel” on MySpace and showed a picture of his friends making “Eastside” hand gestures, has been arrested under Florida's bizzare new gang law.

Elvis Rodriguez, 30, and his mates face five years in state prison for the gang-related content of their Web pages. It seems that coppers believe that such snaps are the use of electronic media to “promote” gangs. Not surprisingly lawyers for the pair are pointing out that little thing called the US Constitution which allows for free speech and the right to associate.

The law was drawn up by a retired copper who who thought that if gangs could not post their snaps online they would give up this gang lark and become decent citizens. William Snyder said that no US freedoms are absolute, and the freedom of expression is not absolute.

While Rodriguez has been arrested seven times in the past 10 years for a variety of non-violent crimes. His codefendant Figueroa-Santiago has no apparent criminal background and, according to his father, was a student at Southwest Florida College at the time of his arrest.

The “only in Florida” law applies to “any person” who uses “electronic communication to intimidate or harass other persons, or to advertise his or her presence in the community.” The law covers Web sites, e-mail, faxes and texts, among forms of media.

Derek Byrd, a director of the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers said the law was a “ridiculous” effort that cast too wide a net. He pointed out that he would be classed as a gang member because he coached his Little League baseball team. “We all wear uniforms, we flash signs, we all wear the same colours.”

We doubt that this law will survive any serious court challenge. (Al Gore also trusted Florida's courts. sub.ed.)

Nick Farell

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