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Robbery Suspect Cleared By Facebook Alibi 160

Posted by Soulskill
from the your-computer-is-broadcasting-an-ip-address dept.
postermmxvicom writes "Rodney Bradford has been cleared of robbery charges because of a Facebook update. The defense was able to prove that the update was made from his father's house, 13 miles away from the crime committed one minute earlier. Lawyer John G. Browning said, 'This is the first case that I’m aware of in which a Facebook update has been used as alibi evidence. We are going to see more of that because of how prevalent social networking has become.' Surely, this must be media hype, since it would not be a difficult alibi to fake."
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Robbery Suspect Cleared By Facebook Alibi

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  • Awesome! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 14, 2009 @10:16AM (#30097210)
    $ at now + 30 minutes
    at> curl -d 'status=lol watching tv' http://www.facebook.com
    at> <EOT>
    job 1 at 2009-11-14 15:36

    Now, who to murder first?
    • by Chapter80 (926879)

      OK, so I guess this guy [journal-news.net] had the technique inverted (as previously discussed. [slashdot.org]

      Or perhaps he was REALLY committing murder, and only got nailed for burglary! hmm.....

  • by Anrego (830717) * on Saturday November 14, 2009 @10:18AM (#30097220)

    But what happens when scripting becomes involved..

    Write a script to make a "hey.. not out murdering my wife's lover" post then destroy/shred itself whilst you're out doing your chainsaw work.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Or just SSH with your iPhone.

      • Hi, you must be new here!

        You realize they could then TRACE your iphone location at a given time, right?

        • by _KiTA_ (241027)

          Hi, you must be new here!

          You realize they could then TRACE your iphone location at a given time, right?

          Epic Fail, dude. SSH into your home linux box and do the update there. There are many remote desktop apps for the iPhone, and you could use Lynx on a Linux box in a pinch.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Nursie (632944)

            Epic fail yourself, they can trace where your iPhone was, no need to care about where that facebook update appeared to come from then.

            • lol, would modded such a retarded post up?

            • by _KiTA_ (241027)

              Epic fail yourself, they can trace where your iPhone was, no need to care about where that facebook update appeared to come from then.

              Stop thinking like a tech. Start thinking like a criminal or defense attorney.

              You only have to fool one of the jurors, not all 12.

              "Well hell, Facebook says he posted on it from home at that time, and that's clear across town. He couldn't have done it." Ta da, hung jury.

              • by julesh (229690)

                Stop thinking like a tech. Start thinking like a criminal or defense attorney.

                You only have to fool one of the jurors, not all 12.

                "Well hell, Facebook says he posted on it from home at that time, and that's clear across town. He couldn't have done it." Ta da, hung jury.

                Well, yeah, but given that 11 of them probably think "the police say he did it so he must have done it", you've only got one you _can_ convince of that...

            • by RockDoctor (15477)

              Epic fail yourself, they can trace where your iPhone was,

              Which proves where your iPhone was (using radio signal triangulation, or whatever). As an extra step, they have to prove that you were in the same location as your iPhone.

              That begs a question - assuming that an iPhone has a "switch off all radios, I'm on a plane" mode which really does switch off all radios, both transmitters and receivers, can the phone then be subject to beacon triangulation? I'd hope not, but you never know if "off" means "off" w

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by Zerth (26112)

            Epic Fail, dude. SSH into your home linux box and do the update there. There are many remote desktop apps for the iPhone, and you could use Lynx on a Linux box in a pinch.

            And you'll have pre-scouted the area for an open wifi node, I assume? Because if your iphone's cell connection isn't off, the cops will wonder why your phone handshaked with a tower 13 miles from your house.

      • Doesn't facebook give the little mobile icon for updates made by phone? Perhaps a criminal could use a smart phone and reconfigure the browser to not call itself mobile, but criminals are self-selecting stupid. I don't see it happening.
      • This generalization may not apply to all situations. Your mileage may vary. Batteries not included.

    • by sopssa (1498795) * <sopssa@email.com> on Saturday November 14, 2009 @10:25AM (#30097276) Journal

      Seems his facebook status update alibi is in connection with what witnesses said too;

      Bradford and witnesses insisted he was innocent. They said he was at his father's Harlem apartment when the crime occurred.

      So it's not only about the status update. Also, I would think a murder case would get more investigation than a robbery too.

      • So it's not only about the status update. Also, I would think a murder case would get more investigation than a robbery too.

        Agreed. Finger prints, DNA, blood stains, etc. This is just enough to get you off on "reasonable doubt" for a lighter crime as it will not be investigated as fully nor result in as much evidence (robber leaves finger prints, murder causes DNA to fly all over the place).

    • The point is that was a type of crime that was not likely to be premeditated, nor his status update looked like a way to construct an alibi, any crime that can assumed to be premeditated would not be excused by such an alibi.

      • any crime that can assumed to be premeditated would not be excused by such an alibi.

        Truth is boolean, evidence is Bayesian.

    • by sorak (246725)

      or he could just give his username and password to his father.

      • by WCguru42 (1268530)

        Even easier, assuming his father doesn't have a facebook profile, he can just leave his cookies on.

  • Sweet! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by d3ac0n (715594) on Saturday November 14, 2009 @10:22AM (#30097244)

    So basically,

    I can go commit any crime I want, as long as I use a remote desktop/VNC program to remote into my PC at home from my smart phone and post something to Facebook immediately afterward?

    SWEET! Time to to rob that bank!

    • Re:Sweet! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by TheRaven64 (641858) on Saturday November 14, 2009 @10:25AM (#30097274) Journal
      Or, for a lower tech solution, just get someone else to do it.
      • Re:Sweet! (Score:5, Funny)

        by d3ac0n (715594) on Saturday November 14, 2009 @10:26AM (#30097284)

        This is /. We don't DO "lower tech" solutions here bub.

        ;)

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by lena_10326 (1100441)

          Duct tape is lower tech. Are you saying you don't use duct tape?

          Be careful with that answer.

          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by Anonymous Coward

            Only to keep my tinfoil hat together

          • You misunderstand what duct tape is or its purpose. Its not a low tech solution, its the shit that binds the universe together. Three words....duct tape cannon.
        • Actually it's extreme high tech:

          You know what the most complex computer known to man is?
          The human brain!

          And you know what social engineering is?
          Hacking the human brain!

          So by making a bum with suicidal tendencies do it for you (or make him get suicidal),
          and then jumping off a bridge or something,
          you actually are on the forefront of the hacker spirit. (Black hat. Definitely black hat! ^^)

          That's as close to "indistinguishable to magic" as you can get nowadays.

      • by sopssa (1498795) *

        Please hand over your geek card on the way out.

      • Re:Sweet! (Score:5, Insightful)

        by MrP- (45616) <rob@@@elitemrp...net> on Saturday November 14, 2009 @10:32AM (#30097344) Homepage

        Not only is that not geeky, it also adds an accomplice to the mix who you'll have to trust and hope they don't squeal. VPN FTW!

        • by sorak (246725)

          Not only is that not geeky, it also adds an accomplice to the mix who you'll have to trust and hope they don't squeal. VPN FTW!

          I phones have GPS which could be tracked in a murder investigation. I don't know if they would, but if they thought to check that, you would be completely utterly screwed.

          • Only iPhone 3g and 3gs have GPS. original iphone does not.

            And yes, you *can* disable it from talking to cell towers, but not turn off its wifi. Only with a jailbroken phone, of course.

            But of course, thats assuming you even mention you have an iphone. Or any cellphone. Now if its in a contract, they can probably find out. But if you have an unlocked one, and are using a cash-bought prepaid SIM in it, then they'd have no way to know you even had a phone, as long as you ditched it before you got arrested. But

        • by beej (82035)

          That's why it would need to be someone you trusted completely who themselves had an interest in you not going to jail. Someone who loves you. In short, your father.

        • Uuum, ever heard of social engineering? The new advanced human mind hacking?

          Oh, and if you make him kill himself in the process, there is nobody to squeal. ^^

      • by nurb432 (527695)

        Like his dad.

      • by shentino (1139071)

        Just hope they don't rat you out.

      • by lukas84 (912874)

        Then you'd need an automated post to get an alibi for killing the witness.

      • by julesh (229690)

        Or, for a lower tech solution, just get someone else to do it.

        Or, for a higher tech one, there's always autoit [autoitscript.com].

    • Actually, you would lose. That connection WILL be detected and recorded via the telcos.

      TO really pull this off, What is needed is a 2 way conversation by different systems that give appearance of conversation. Just simply postings will now fail since a number of DAs are about to learn about system automation.
      • This is why you train a set of Markov chains with your chat logs and have them hold conversations with your friends on something like Google Talk that logs your chats.
        • Actually, if you wanted to pull off a crime, it would be simple to come up alibis. For example, place a car with laptop by a wifi (fake mac) and then have it script a conversation. Likewise, you set up the counter part script at your home. The trick is that this has to appear to be a conversation in the previous time frames and then do it again. At that point, it becomes easy to persuade a jury that you were @ a location. Sadly, this is far too easy.
  • by sakdoctor (1087155) on Saturday November 14, 2009 @10:23AM (#30097260) Homepage

    Not robbing

    • by sorak (246725)

      I knew he was guilty when Mafia wars posted "Rodney Bradford has completed the mission: mug two people and ask for pancakes"

  • by Manip (656104)

    I love how ignorant of technology the legal profession is.

    Take this case for example, nobody stopped to consider that he might have setup a HTTP proxy, VPN tunnel, or some other routing service? Why? Because neither the defence nor prosecution understand what they're talking about.

    I would really like to see legal reforms that create new "specialist" branches of experts who exist only to explain the significance of particular areas to the court without actually taking sides in cases (e.g. Technology, Science

    • by autocracy (192714) <slashdot2007@sto ... m minus language> on Saturday November 14, 2009 @10:38AM (#30097372) Homepage
      Most evidence, with enough effort, can be faked. We usually call those conspiracies.

      It would be a great amount of effort for a small robbery to perform this task and to get the corroborating evidence. There is very reasonable doubt that he committed the crime.
    • I would really like to see legal reforms that create new "specialist" branches of experts who exist only to explain the significance of particular areas to the court without actually taking sides in cases (e.g. Technology, Science, High-End Accounting, etc).

      This sounds a lot like the expert witness system we have now. (They're not neutral, but both sides get to use them). The problem is that a lawyer still has to know that an expert is needed.

      And, yes, it's too bad if the prosecution here did not think to ask the obvious questions you raise. (But remember, the defense doesn't have to prove that he didn't use a proxy, etc. The burden of proof is on the prosecution to show that he did.) But fear not, a new generation of lawyers is coming up through the law schoo

    • by Mashiki (184564)

      I've mentioned this before, but law enforcement doesn't really have the money to investigate this type of stuff. Even the guys in specialized divisions don't, the way you generally get there though is starting as a beat cop and working your way up with a shown interest. That leaves oh...99% of the people who know what they're doing, doing something else.

      Those of you in the /. crowd besides myself going into law enforcement raise your hands. I'm going to guess the pickings will be slim. I'll hazard even

    • by whoda (569082) on Saturday November 14, 2009 @10:54AM (#30097500) Homepage

      They did consider VPN's and Proxies and fairies too.
      They also had witnesses, aka Real People, who also testified he was at his fathers house.
      It was corroborating evidence, not the piece the case hinged on.

      Once again, Facebook verified what multiple REAL PEOPLE were telling the cops. It wasn't the only piece of evidence.

      You love how ignorant people are of the legal profession, I love how people like you are so pompous and know-it-all's they can't even read the article.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Manip (656104)

        You must be new to /. if you think people read the articles before responding...

    • by Sepiraph (1162995)
      If this was a million dollar heist or a premeditated murder case, I'd have agreed with you but considering that the case was some robbery in a public housing and the accused was a teenager, it seem extremely likely that he'd actually gone through all that trouble to setup all of that just to update his facebook (and the arguably remote chance that it was admitted as evidence).
    • by bumburumbi (1047864) on Saturday November 14, 2009 @11:42AM (#30097814)
      Well, it is within the realm of the possible that somebody sat down and applied Occams razor to the possible scenarios: The first scenario involves this bloke (1) planning to rob somebody, (2) setting up a proxy or vpn service and (3) some people conspiring to give false evidence. The second scenario: The bloke was at home and nobody lied.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by at_slashdot (674436)

      I posted this in another reply but I see a common misunderstanding: The point is that was a type of crime that was not likely to be premeditated, nor his status update looked like a way to construct an alibi, any crime that can assumed to be premeditated would not be excused by such an alibi.

      There's no "lack of understanding of the technology" involved here, is your lack of understanding of the circumstances.

    • by seebs (15766)

      Read the guy's facebook.

      Then tell me with a straight face that it is reasonable to imagine that he set up some such fakery in order to have an alibi for a trivial robbery.

    • Take this case for example, nobody stopped to consider that he might have setup a HTTP proxy, VPN tunnel, or some other routing service? Why? Because neither the defence nor prosecution understand what they're talking about.

      There is not a single part of the internet that cannot be fairly simple translated into long established law. For example, to help establish your alibi defence of "I was at home", you would use all sorts of things that can help you clear that up. "I dialed a friend's house, and she didn't pick up" is the closest immediate parallel. The phone company can verify that the call was made, and while it doesn't prove that YOU did it, it does help make your case.

      Could someone be faking it, technically? Yeah, pr

    • by nedlohs (1335013)

      They did, you are just *much* more ignorant of the legal professions that they are of technology.

      Evidence is weighed, you may note they didn't just release him when he said "but I was home and made a facebook update".

      They verified it with facebook, got statement from other people providing collaboration, spent 2 weeks confirming things and checking other evidence. And decided that the available evidence supported his claim and so let him go.

      Sure the "it was a facebook update" makes the news, but it's not th

  • Double-edged sword. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by prakslash (681585) on Saturday November 14, 2009 @10:32AM (#30097338)
    This decision just gave the IP address sword its second edge.

    On the one hand, they were using IP addresses to identify and prosecute people for 'illegal' downloading and accessing child porn. Now, someone was aquitted based on their IP address.

    Interesting indeed. Probably now, the authorities will realize the futility of using IP addresses as evidence.
    • by autocracy (192714)
      Well, not so much. The info from the posting, the IP address, and the witness statements corroborate to provide more than reasonable doubt that he did not commit the crime. That's very different from saying that the info from the IP address is beyond reasonable doubt.
    • by nurb432 (527695)

      Futility? I think they just solidified it, even tho it defies logic that it was actually *you* doing the update ( or download ). An IP proves nothing other then where the crime/alibi occurred, but opens up a lot of people of false accusations, convictions and jail time for something they didn't actually do.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by schon (31600)

      Now, someone was aquitted based on their IP address.

      No, someone was aquitted based on the IP address their account was used from. There is a distinct difference.

      In this case, there is a username and password that is used to identify someone, not just an IP address.

      It's distinctly possible that he gave his account information to someone else, but there were witnesses to corroborate the alibi as well.

      • It's distinctly possible that he gave his account information to someone else

        Such as, for example, the password manager in his preferred browser.

    • You know, there was also witness testimony that the suspect didn't commit the crime. It wasn't just the Facebook status that acquitted him. Now if the Facebook status was the only thing that showed he didn't do it and he was acquitted, then I'd say that's news. As it is, it's not news.

    • by Blakey Rat (99501)

      ... and reliable witnesses who testified in his defense.

      Seriously, people, the Slashdot summaries DO NOT GIVE THE FULL STORY. Please click through if you're going to comment.

  • Shirley!

    Sorry. I am so sorry. I'll leave now. So sorry.

  • Thanks, awesome. (Score:1, Redundant)

    by NoPantsJim (1149003)
    Now I know how to not get convicted when I commit that crime I was planning for tonight.

    (No, I am not planning a crime tonight, or ever)
  • The super market tabloids for your TV!
  • Couldn't you just have a friend login to your facebook profile and post a update while you're out committing crimes?
  • by qpawn (1507885) on Saturday November 14, 2009 @11:19AM (#30097670)

    I could have been cleared, but I posted as an Anonymous Coward.

  • by Dachannien (617929) on Saturday November 14, 2009 @11:37AM (#30097774)

    One thing that some folks have forgotten here is that the guy was presumed innocent until the prosecution could prove him guilty. If there's evidence from Facebook indicating that he updated his status, then the prosecution would need to show that the guy was using a proxy/tunnel/whatever, or that he had someone else post for him, etc. Otherwise, it provides a reasonable doubt as to whether he was even at the scene of the crime.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by hazem (472289)

      This really just shows how weak the prosecution's case was. I suspect they locked him up in Rikers for 12 days to hopefully get him to just give up and plead guilty to a lesser charge. That way they get a conviction, the city is "tough on crime", and they didn't actually have to make the effort of putting together an actual case in front of a judge and jury.

      When they can make your life miserable until you confess, there's no need for a presumption of innocence. This guy got lucky that he had eye witnesse

    • . If there's evidence from Facebook indicating that he updated his status, then the prosecution would need to show that the guy was using a proxy/tunnel/whatever, or that he had someone else post for him, etc.

      You have a fundamental misunderstanding of how evidence works. Even if it's evidence in your favor, it has to still be valid.

      This case is ridiculous; the prosecutor should be fired for gross incompetence. All the prosecution would have to do is ask "could a login from his computer only be done b

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by canajin56 (660655)
        The prosecutors job is to prove beyond all reasonable doubt. If he contends a piece of evidence is invalid, he has to prove it is so beyond all reasonable doubt. You're the one who doesn't understand. He would have had to go up there and contend that "All of the other guests lied about him being there, and on top of that, he had one of them leave a facebook message in order to exonerate him, and yes, that seems to me a reasonable setup prior to a fucking MUGGING." To repeat. If you're charged with a cr
      • Even if it's evidence in your favor, it has to still be valid.

        Is there any reason the evidence should be excluded in this case? Whether or not the Facebook evidence substantiates a finding of reasonable doubt should be left up to a jury to decide.

  • "WHERE MY IHOP? robbin fools make me hungery."
  • Crime of Opportunity (Score:3, Informative)

    by pgn674 (995941) on Saturday November 14, 2009 @12:41PM (#30098306) Homepage
    There are a lot of posts saying it'd be pretty easy to fake the Facebook post. It wouldn't even have to be technical: Just call your father and ask him to log on to Facebook under your account and post what you tell him to.

    The article doesn't say, but what if this was a crime of opportunity? What if the evidence at the scene and witness's testimonies painted a motive that indicated it was a crime of opportunity, and not a pre-planned crime? If that was a case, then accepting a Facebook posting made at the time of the crime seems pretty reasonable. Maybe he called his father just after the crime, but one minute after an unplanned crime? That feels unlikely to me, too. And anyways, the court had testimonies and other evidence hinting that he wasn't the guy, so I don't think this will set a precedent that Facebook postings should be accepted without question in court.

Whenever people agree with me, I always think I must be wrong. - Oscar Wilde

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