Tag Archives: criminal defense in raleigh

Can Social Media Posts Be Used As Evidence In Raleigh, NC Court Cases?

Many users post to social media without considering that their words, pictures, or other content could have adverse consequences. Most people like to post pictures of food, their pets, children, or discuss other everyday things. But sometimes what you post can have serious repercussions.

If you are involved in a court case—whether criminal, family law (including divorce and child custody cases), worker’s compensation, or personal injury, for instance—anything posted on social media is available to anyone who finds it. Many people have lost their cases because of something found on their social media.

Divorce lawyers are particularly devious when it comes to finding evidence on social media that can win the case for their clients. In any court case, content posted on social media can and likely will be used as evidence by opposing counsel. Technology means that unless you can prove that your account was hacked, everything can be authenticated before the trial.

Criminal Postings

It seems ridiculous, but many people have been caught and arrested after posting pictures of themselves on social media and even confessing to a crime.

Can Social Media Posts Be Used As Evidence In Raleigh, NC Court Cases?

  • Mooresville NC— Jade Tyson Brannon, 44, was arrested in June of 2020 for posting threats of violence against law enforcement on social media.
  • Fayetteville, NC— Lacy Kornegay, 21, made social media posts with threats against an ethnic group and listed someone else’s address to lead a reader to someone else’s home.
  • San Diego, CA—bank employee Arlando Henderson, 29, is arrested by the FBI in December of 2019 after stealing over $88,000 from the bank’s vault. He posted multiple pictures of himself with stacks of cash on both Facebook and Instagram. He used some of the money to put a down payment on a new luxury vehicle, and committed loan fraud to pay the balance.

Last year, the FBI admitted that it searched through social media to try and identify “potential flashpoints for violence.”

Even if your settings are “private,” it’s not uncommon for law enforcement to connect with someone on your friend’s list to obtain evidence. Witnesses can also provide evidence from a social media page.

But doesn’t this come under free speech? Yes, it does—and it’s placed online for the world to see. Therefore, law enforcement may not need a warrant to get it, since discussing anything on social media is no different than discussing it in any public place.

A Real-Life Case

On 9/10/2012, a grand jury indicted Antonio Delontay Ford of involuntary manslaughter and obstruction of justice in the death of Eugene Cameron. The matter went to trial on 7/23/2014, and he was convicted of involuntary manslaughter.

In State Of NC vs. Ford (No. COA15-75, filed in the appellate court, 2/16/2016), the defendant appealed a decision based on the unlawful introduction of some of his social media postings from his MySpace page. The page included pictures of his dog, a pit bull named “DMX,” which attacked and killed Cameron unprovoked.

Neighbors reported previous encounters with this dog, including three incidents of bites. The dog was known to be vicious, and it had been allowed to run through the neighborhood unsecured and unsupervised. The owner of the home where Cameron was found suggested to detectives that they speak with next-door neighbor Ford, a dog owner.

Detectives questioned Ford, he admitted that DMX was his. DNA analysis of both the victim and DMX showed that the dog was responsible for Cameron’s injuries that led to his death.

The night before the trial, a detective discovered Ford’s MySpace page. In addition to pictures and videos of the dog, the page contained a video captioned, “DMX tha Killer Pit.” A second video contained the caption, “After a Short Fight, he killed that mut.”  One picture bore the description, “undefeated.” Screenshots of several videos were submitted into evidence, and a rap song sung by the defendant was played for the jury. The song was posted on his Myspace page, and the lyrics denied that the dog was the cause of death.

In his appeal, Ford stated that the court erred in submitting his rap song about the dog, evidence from his online presence, and committed an error in admitting opinion testimony. He attempted to stop the admission of his rap song as evidence but was denied. The jury heard the rap song in its entirety, including racial epithets and other profanities. Ford contended that the content offended the jury, which caused them to overlook the “holes in the State’s case.” Conversely, the prosecution showed that not only did Ford know that DMX was a dangerous and vicious animal, but he was also proud of it. Ford’s social media supported this assertion.

The court disagreed with Ford’s appeal:

“Pursuant to North Carolina General Statutes, section 8C-1, Rule 402, “[a]ll relevant evidence is admissible, except as otherwise provided by the Constitution of the United States, by the Constitution of North Carolina, by Act of Congress, by Act of the General Assembly or by these rules. Evidence which is not relevant is not admissible.” N.C. Gen. Stat. § 8C-1, Rule 402 (2013)

Your Criminal Defense Counsel In Raleigh

If you’ve been charged with a crime—any crime—the first thing to do is stay off social media, and avoid posting anything until you speak with a criminal defense attorney.

Even as a misdemeanor, any type of conviction can have long-ranging consequences that impact your life, including a permanent criminal record.

If you’ve been arrested and are facing any kind of criminal charges, call the law offices of Dewey P. Brinkley today for a free initial consultation to discuss your case at (919) 832-0307. You can also email us at dewey@deweypbrinkleylaw.com, or use our online contact form.

How Embezzlement and Theft are Different?

You might be thinking that embezzlement and theft are one and the same, but they aren’t. While theft is stealing something that doesn’t belong to you, embezzlement is also more of a planned type of theft, and has the added element of violated trust.

What Is Embezzlement?

In an employment or other position of financial responsibility, you may be entrusted with money or property, and have permission to handle them in the course of your job or other position. Misusing your position of trust to steal or misappropriate money or property and convert it to your own elevates theft and embezzlement.

The crime occurs in a number of familiar settings, with the most common scenario a worker stealing money, inventory, or office supplies from their employer. While you may not be arrested for the odd ballpoint you forgot that put in your pocket and take home, embezzlement can also take the form of:

How Does Embezzlement Differ From Theft?

  • Altering employee time records
  • Adding extra to a company expense account
  • Depositing customer or vendor checks into a personal account, or moving money into one
  • Altering company books to conceal stolen, misappropriated, or loss amounts
  • “Borrowing” money from a company cash register
  • Over-charging for a product and keeping the difference
  • Adding a phony employee to the company payroll
  • Accepting kickbacks and bribes

Additionally, money or property that is entrusted to you and is mishandled is considered embezzlement, including:

  • Improperly using someone else’s Social Security money, i.e., relative or child
  • Creating a credit card or check “kiting” scheme (writing bad checks and “floating” them)
  • Using a Ponzi scheme to steal funds
  • Using a client’s settlement amount to pay for operating expenses
  • “Borrowing” funds from a civic organization, nonprofit or other organization
  • Selling a property and keeping the proceeds without notifying heirs

Although embezzlement is usually handled at the state level, should a government employee is involved, or government funds, the federal government will be involved.

Overtime As Embezzlement

Many people are dedicated to their job, and work longer hours. For some, it may be a requirement. But for others, working overtime may constitute embezzlement under certain circumstances.

Of course, if you’re working the overtime to bring in extra money, and not setting off any alarms, there isn’t much cause for concern. However, other indicators in addition to overtime may raise suspicions of possible embezzlement. This would include issues with company financial accounts, including accounts that are missing or disorganized records that make account audits difficult if not impossible.

For an individual who spends a lot of time at the office, including weekends and holidays, and uses company resources may be doing so for their own benefit (i.e., running a business or other money-making plan.) If the individual charges the company for “overtime,” the individual is defrauding the company out of money and work he or she allegedly completed.

Another method is when an individual claims to work overtime, but doesn’t appear anywhere on security footage at the time he or she claims to have worked.

This is not to say that everyone working overtime is suspect. If a company suspects fraud through overtime, it will look for other signs of possible misconduct that indicate embezzlement.

Penalties For Embezzlement in North Carolina

These depend on who committed the embezzlement and how much the individual embezzled.

  • Officers or agents, clerks, or employees at a corporation who embezzle over $100,000 are charged with a Class C felony, with a possible jail sentence of 58-73 months in prison. Anything under $100,000 is considered a Class H felony with a possible jail sentence of 5 to 6 months in prison and “community punishment.”
  • Treasurers of any charitable organizations who embezzle over $100,000 are charged with a Class C felony, with a possible sentence of 58-73 months in prison. Anything under $100,000 is considered a Class H felony with a possible jail sentence of 5 to 6 months in prison and “community punishment.”
  • Railroad officers embezzling over $100,000 are charged with a Class C felony, with a possible sentence of 58-73 months in prison. Anything under $100,000 is considered a Class F felony with a possible jail sentence of 13 to 16 months in prison.
  • Public officials and public employees, including state and government workers embezzling over $100,000 are charged with a Class C felony, with a possible sentence of 58-73 months in prison. Anything under $100,000 is considered a Class F felony with a possible jail sentence of 13 to 16 months in prison.

In addition to criminal court charges, the company or individual from whom the money or property was embezzled can also sue you in civil court. The individual or company can treat you like a debtor once they get a judgment. They can garnish your wages, put a lien on your house (or force you to sell it) and levy your bank accounts.

Dewey P. Brinkley Is Ready To Defend You

Embezzlement is a serious crime with far-reaching consequences. If you’ve been accused of or charged with embezzlement, you need someone to defend you against the charges and in court—quickly.

Dewey P. Brinkley is an experienced criminal defense attorney in Raleigh, NC who understands the criminal justice system, and how to defend you against embezzlement charges.

Call Dewey P. Brinkley today for a free initial consultation to discuss your case at (919) 832-0307. You can also email us at dewey@deweypbrinkleylaw.com, or use our online contact form.