Label Exec Arrested For Not Using Twitter To Disperse Crowd At Mall To See Singer

from the what's-the-charge-there? dept

Peter Kafka has an odd story about an executive at Island Def Jam Recods, James Roppo, who was supposedly arrested for not using Twitter to get crowds to disperse at a Long Island mall, after they had gathered to see singer Justin Bieber:

Police arrested a senior vice president from Bieber’s label, Island Def Jam Records, James A. Roppo, 44, of Hoboken, N.J., saying he hindered their crowd-control efforts by not cooperating.

He was in custody Friday night, pending charges that could include criminal nuisance, endangering the welfare of a minor and obstructing government administration, Smith said.

“We asked for his help in getting the crowd to go away by sending out a Twitter message,” Smith said. “By not cooperating with us we feel he put lives in danger and the public at risk.”

Now, that’s quite a charge to make: that by not following police orders to send out Twitter messages you were “obstructing government administration” or involved in “criminal nuisance.” Of course, the case may be made even more difficult because, as Kafka notes, Bieber’s Twitter account actually did warn people to leave. Still, it makes you wonder how they get “not Twittering on command” to stick as a crime.

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Comments on “Label Exec Arrested For Not Using Twitter To Disperse Crowd At Mall To See Singer”

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53 Comments
Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Er...

I’m going to be severely disappointed if this isn’t immediately tossed out and sanctions applied. Since when did Good Samaritan laws reverse so as to be compulsatory upon police request? Isn’t a person’s twitter account their property in so much as a telephone line is? If the police had found someone injured and shouted, “Call 911!”, would he be legally required to do so?

Or, perhaps a better example, if a policeman or policewoman attempt to commandeer your vehicle in order to pursue a fleeing suspect, and you refuse, are you charged w/Obstruction, or anything similar?

When the police started wearing dark colors instead of that friendly sky blue they used to wear, they seemed to have gone from good guys to gestapo….

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: Re: Er...

“Sanctions? How does that work against the police? Courts can sanction attorneys, but the police are independent of the courts. Explain please.”

Here are examples of courts filing sanctions against police departments:

http://www.mlnlaw.com/2009/11/motion-requests-sanctions-against.html

http://www.jstor.org/pss/793655

http://www.boston.com/globe/metro/packages/tickets/050604_folo.shtml

danny (profile) says:

Re: It's Kafka-esque (ok, somebody had to say it)

Clearly there is a lot more going on here than Mike had access to.

Granted, “refusing to Twitter” is not a crime. But the fact that the police knew to ask this guy to tweet a disperse message implies there was a history to their interactions. They knew he had the Twitter account; and they knew a sizable portion of the audience was following it.

The fact they they arrested him suggests there was a strong difference of opinion between Kafka and the police about getting the crowd dispersed.

Christopher (profile) says:

Re: Re: It's Kafka-esque (ok, somebody had to say it)

Or, that this guy simply was thinking “You really damned well think that a Twitter message is going to disperse this crowd? As IF!”

I’ve seen the videos of the crowd… while not TOTALLY out of control… it was close. One thing you do NOT want to do is get between teenage girls and their pretty boy idols… unless you wish to be trampled.

Joseph Durnal (user link) says:

It depends

I couldn’t dig up all the details, but, for example, if the event in question was organized with twitter, and the authorities already had the right to have the crowd disperse, then it would be a reasonable to have the organizers to use twitter to help disperse the crowd.

Take the high tech out of it. If someone uses a bullhorn and gets the crowd out of control, but wouldn’t use it to calm the situation, they’d be in the wrong. Of course, in this case, any officer could just use the bullhorn, they might not be able to tweet something that the crowd is watching.

The right and wrong of this situation will be in the often unreported details.

Ryan says:

Re: It depends

for example, if the event in question was organized with twitter

If someone uses a bullhorn and gets the crowd out of control

Notice the difference–organizing an event is not the same thing as inciting a mob riot.

I don’t really see any forthcoming details such that this guy was not actively stirring the crowd and yet was charged with all that merely because he didn’t send a twitter message. If that’s what happened, then this is a pretty clear-cut case of abuse of authority.

Yakko Warner says:

Re: It depends

I couldn’t dig up all the details, but, for example, if the event in question was organized with twitter, and the authorities already had the right to have the crowd disperse, then it would be a reasonable to have the organizers to use twitter to help disperse the crowd.

That doesn’t necessarily follow.

If the event was organized by printing fliers and distributing them around town, would it be reasonable to require the organizer to disburse the crowd by printing up a batch of fliers indicating the event’s been canceled?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: It depends

Have you tried to disperse a mob of teenage girls? Easier to herd cats. Given the mentality of many young girls, I suspect they might well tell the officer to “bite me” and other similar phrases hardly encouraging of crowd dispersal. I saw an episode of Mall Cops not too long ago where a bunch of teenage girls discovered that only 500 people were going to be able to see some “star” (another of those cookie-cutter corporate stars that I know nothing about). It was getting ugly in spite of attempts to get people to disperse.

Christopher (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: It depends

No, it is not ‘easier to herd cats’. I’ve been in places where teenage boys and girls were in a mob like this….. it is VERY easy to disperse them IF YOU TELL THEM THAT THE EVENT HAS BEEN CANCELED!
The question here is: why was the event canceled? And second: Did the police have any damned right to cancel it? I’d have to say………. NO, to that second question!

Moron N Ahurry says:

Duh!

Of course they can charge you with whatever they want!

Heck, they can arrest you now for not paying a gratuity, even tho the definition of gratuity is:

1)a relatively small amount of money given for services rendered (as by a waiter)
2)an award (as for meritorious service) given without claim or obligation

1) If they weren’t rendered the proper serivce, it’s void

2) It was obviously obligatory, so wasn’t a true gratuity, so they didn’t order it.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re: Duh!

No, they cannot. Gratuity means OPTIONAL, and any place that tried to have you arrested for not giving someone that, would be closed down by the police IMMEDIATELY and/or the people WHO WORKED FOR THE RESTAURANT or business ARRESTED IMMEDIATELY!

Or… not:

http://www.philly.com/philly/news/breaking/20091119_College_students_arrested_for_not_paying_tip.html

Christopher (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Duh!

And once this goes through the courts… the police are going to be smacked, the establishment is going to be smacked (and told that they CANNOT make an optional thing mandatory, which would be like a car dealer INSISTING that I get all my warranty work done there when the law says I can do otherwise), and these people are going to be paid off by the establishment to not file a lawsuit against them.

You forget that some stupid things can be done.. but then, people get thrown in jail for doing them, including cops!

Michael (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Duh!

In this case, the students are going to lose. Calling it a gratuity does not change the fact that it is a payment for services that is listed on the menu with the other pricing.

A car dealership can charge you up front for all of your service by adding $10k to the price of the car when you buy it and then demand that you have all of the already paid for service done there. You as a consumer can go elsewhere if you do not like their terms.

hegemon13 says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Duh!

This is all dependent on state law. In Nebraska, for example, it is illegal to make a gratuity compulsory. They can add it to your receipt, but if you demand to have it removed, the restaurant must oblige, even if the menu says “a gratuity will be added…” I only had to take advantage of that law one time, but I was really pissed after seeing a 20% gratuity for the second-worst service I had ever received.

Christopher (profile) says:

Re: Re: Compelled speech?

Nope, practice is not different. Almost every time where the police have tried to compel speech or arrested someone for not saying something they wanted them to say….. BOOM! The courts have come down on the police like a 10 KILO-TON weight on their fingers.

Unless, you are in someplace that thinks that “The 50 is always right!” like Texas. Even Texas has had federal judges get on their case in the past 30 years.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Compelled speech?

Nope, practice is not different. Almost every time where the police have tried to compel speech or arrested someone for not saying something they wanted them to say….. BOOM! The courts have come down on the police like a 10 KILO-TON weight on their fingers.

See what you’re saying? You’re talking about what may or may not happen *after* the fact while admitting that it actually does occur. Or try telling someone sitting in jail for refusing to comply that they aren’t really sitting in jail. Maybe they could explain the difference between theory and practice to you.

And as for that “10 KILO-TON weight”, you mean those little wrist slaps they get? As this story proves, they obviously haven’t been enough stop it, have they?

Sergio says:

Did they expect that to work?

Is there something I’m missing here? Last time I checked Twitter does not hook up directly to your brain and I know I’m not in the habbit of constantly checking the twitters that I follow, especially if I’m attending an event. How did the police think that would have ANY impact on crowd control?

Christopher (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

And Australia was stupid for making that legit. You should have to GO TO THE PERSON’S HOUSE, because you don’t know whether: 1. Their internet has been cut off, 2. That they are away from home at the time the Twitter is sent out, 3. That they have made ANOTHER account and are not using that account anymore, etc. etc. etc.

The police or a process server should have to go to the person’s home or they should have to send something that cannot ‘get lost in the interbutt’ like a registered letter.

Lonzo5 (profile) says:

Let's get real...

This is very typical. We’re under no obligation to comply with a peace officer’s diktats; if he wants something done, he’ll make it happen through force or the threat thereof. If he wants us arrested for doing nothing, then he will manufacture a crime. If this incident becomes subject to investigation, it will doubtless be found that this officer was acting well within the law, regardless of what said law actually states. This is not a nation of laws, but of enforcers.

Christopher (profile) says:

Re: Let's get real...

Unfortunately, sometimes that is true. However, a lot of cops when they see something like this facepalm and say “Those cops give people like me an EXTREMELY bad name! Tch….. and they wonder why no one trusts us!”

This is a ‘nation of laws’, but you are right… the enforcers are out of control, and the laws give them WAAAAAAY too much leeway on their behavior.

It basically takes them SHOOTING AN KILLING AN UNARMED 2 YEAR OLD before they are smacked down WITH JAIL TIME like they should be.

Ryan Diederich says:

I dont see how anyone can feel that this guy did the right thing here.

There were lives at risk, the police found a way to control the crowd, and this guy refused to help them get the job done.

This guy obviously made the wrong choice, he should be punished for at least something. When it gets to the point that people are going to get hurt, you should do what police say.

If this case gets tossed out, we might as well make it legal to break out of jail and kill people, because really, why should someone be able to tell you not to do it?

/sarcasm

Christopher (profile) says:

Re: Re:

He didn’t refuse to help…. he REFUSED to do something that was not going to have one itty bit of affect on the crowd.

It’s like forcing me to ride my bike on a tightrope to try to help someone who is dangling 40 feet BELOW where I could reach with my arm held off said bike!

When something would have NO LEGITIMATE EFFECT, the police cannot force you to do it. And, in fact, the police have been told MANY MANY MANY MANY MANY times….. that they CANNOT force a political leader or someone else to order their followers to disperse.

They tried arguing that in federal court when I was still in elementary school 18 years ago….. and they LOST THE CASE.

It wouldn’t be a BIG stretch to extend those protections to the person who planned a LEGAL EVENT.

Not to mention, there is going to be some questions as to whether the police had any right to order these people to disperse in the first place.

Oh, and stop with the hysterical argument that you make. Sarcasm or not, some of the mentally impeded on the internet would actually think you are serious with that.

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