This article looks at a case were a student posted on a social media site various sexually explicit information regarding children 13-16. The perpetrator was a teen himself who attended high school with the named children. However with an interesting turn of twists the ACLU is representing the perpetrator of the crime who is charged with violating the districts anti cyber bullying law by stating the students First Amendment Right5s are being violated. I say interesting because the ACLU has represented children who have been bullied because they have been both emotionally and physically harassed because of being gay. In this instance the perpetrator calls various students gay among other things. Should the ACLU make up it's mind who and what legal entities it supports?
Courtesy Of Times Union: Highest Court Looks at Cyber Bullying Case: Albany
To police, the jaw-dropping remarks of Cohoes High School student Marquan Mackey-Meggs on Facebook in 2010 were grounds for his arrest under a new Albany County cyber-bullying law.
To civil libertarians, the remarks were jaw-dropping but perfectly legal.
On Thursday, his case and the future of the anti-bullying statute will be tested at the highest court in New York state. The ultimate decision by the Court of Appeals will set a precedent governing the limits of online expression and whether certain language is simply offensive or illegal.
Corey Stoughton, an attorney for the New York Civil Liberties Union Foundation arguing on behalf of Mackey-Meggs, wants the court to toss his conviction on the charge. She contends the county law violates the First Amendment, which protects speech, and the 14th Amendment, which addresses equal protection of the laws.
"Because Albany County has made no effort to demonstrate that this broad criminalization of speech is necessary to protect minors from harm, the court should strike the cyber-bullying law down on its face," she stated in court papers.
In December 2010, Mackey-Meggs created an anonymous Facebook page called the "Cohoes Flame." His expletive-laced posts identified multiple students by name and claimed they had several sexual partners and that, in some cases, were gay. The students were between the ages of 13 and 16.
The vast majority of his comments cannot be printed in a newspaper. He claimed one female student had 14 sexual partners and listed the names.
Among the remarks that can be printed included Mackey-Meggs suggestion that one female student "will make out with any boy in history if drunk."
Cohoes police arrested Mackey-Meggs on June 14, 2011. He was charged with eight counts of violating the county's cyber-bullying law, which was enacted amid increased efforts across the country to eliminate student bullying, much of which has been seen online.
In court papers, Albany County Attorney Thomas Marcelle said Mackey-Meggs inflicted vicious, life-altering attacks on fellow students for the express purpose of humiliating them.
"Freedom of speech is not the issue," he stated in a court brief. "It was his desire to inflict harm on his victims that got him convicted of a crime, not his desire to enter into the marketplace of ideas."
Marcelle said the law was tailored to include acts of bullying involving the electronic dissemination of sexually explicit photos, private or personal sexual information, false sexual information with no legitimate purpose and "with the specific intent to inflict emotional harm on a minor."
Marcelle said the First Amendment does not protect false statements designed to inflict harm on another person.
"The Cyber-Bullying Law is precisely targeted at speech in the narrow circumstances where the communication has no purpose other than to inflict emotional harm upon a child — that is, in situations where the speaker has no intent to communicate ideas and is without the protections offered by the First Amendment," the attorney stated.
The law defined cyber-bullying to include "sending hate mail, with no legitimate private, personal, or public purpose, with the intent to harass, annoy, threaten, abuse, taunt, intimidate, torment, humiliate, or otherwise inflict significant emotional harm on another person."
In turn, Stoughton argued: "These terms encompass countless emails, text messages, and postings on social networking and other websites, putting thousands of people in Albany County in jeopardy of criminal prosecution for expressing anger, criticism, intimacy, parody, gossip, and opinion."
Mackey-Meggs tried to get his case tossed on grounds that his speech was protected by the First Amendment, which specifically prohibits any law prohibiting freedom of speech.
Cohoes City Court Judge Richard Maguire upheld the law. In turn, Mackey-Meggs pleaded guilty to a single count of cyber-bullying, admitting he electronically disseminated false sexual information to inflict emotional harm on a minor.
But he did so under the grounds that the plea deal would not prevent him from appealing the conviction on its constitutionality.
He then appealed the case to Albany County Judge Stephen Herrick, who upheld the conviction but determined the law should only apply to victims who are minors.
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