NJ cops tried to charge 5 people for tweeting pic of officer
NUTLEY — Essex County law enforcement has given up on its plan to charge five people for tweeting, and retweeting, a picture of a police officer on duty and in public.
The Essex County Prosecutor dismissed cyber harassment charges against the five people Friday, the Asbury Park Press reported.
"After reviewing the cases, we concluded there was insufficient evidence to sustain our burden of proof," it quotes spokesperson Katherine Carter saying.
The Washington Post last week reported Kevin Alfaro, attending a Black Lives Matter protest on June 19, had noticed a police officer wearing a "Blue Lives Matter" mask befriending someone Alfaro said threatened him.
Alfaro tweeted a picture of the officer, writing "If anyone knows who this b---- is throw his info under this tweet." The tweet has since been deleted, but an archived image of it was cited by the Post.
The Verge, which first reported the story, said there had been no replies revealing the officer's identity. But Alfaro and each of four people who retweeted his original message were charged with cyber harassment, a fourth-degree crime, it said.
The Verge report identifies the officer as Detective Peter Sandomenico, citing a complaint against activist Georgana Sziszak for being one of the people who retweeted Alfaro. The complaint alleged the photo and caption threatened the officer “acting in the performance of his duties, causing Detective Sandomenico to fear that harm will come to himself, family, and property.”
“You’re allowed to express your disapproval or dissent of how your government is behaving,” Alan Peyrouton, Sziszak’s lawyer, told the Post. “It is protected speech.”
In a GoFundMe seeking money for legal fees, Sziszak said she didn't attend the protest, but retweeted Alfaro to support him.
"His tweet was a picture of the cop turning his back and his badge # was NOT VISIBLE. My friend stated that he felt threatened by this cop and attempted to specifically identify this cop via tweeting," she wrote.
She said she "did not say anything against this cop, and had zero clue to who he was."
Sziszak wrote she "simply retweeted because I feel that just as with anyone we should hold our officers accountable. The purpose of this tweet was to find out the officers information, to hold him accountable."
As of Sunday afternoon, her page had raised just under $10,000.
Alfaro had raised more than $6,000 on his own GoFundMe by the same time. He said any money beyond that used to pay for legal representation would go to Black Lives Matter-based organizations.
Cyber harassment carries a sentence of up to 18 months in state prison and a fine of up to $10,000.