Mistaken Identity on Twitter Lands Teen in Jail for Shooting, Attorney Says
COOK COUNTY CRIMINAL COURTHOUSE — A case of mistaken identity on Twitter landed a South Side teen in jail on shooting charges, his attorney said.
Patrick Myers, 17, was arrested and charged in a shooting after the victim picked out his assailant from a photo posted on Twitter, said defense attorney Stuart Goldberg. But the case was quickly dismissed when it became clear to authorities that Myers was not in the photo.
"We knew he didn't do it," Myers' aunt, Signora Jones said, her arm wrapped tightly around the grinning teen. "This one here, he is not going to even be holding a gun."
Like many of the lawbreakers they pursue, police are increasingly making use of Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. While evidence gathered on social media is rarely enough to warrant charges, police say it can help.
"Information garnered from social media sites merely assists investigators and generates leads," Chicago Police Lt. Steven Sesso. "It is not the sole source of information used to prosecute an offender."
But social media has pitfalls, both for police as an investigative tool and for those charged with crimes.
In Myers' case, police and the victim identified him as the shooter based on a Twitter photo featuring two young men with a gun, his attorney said.
The 22-year-old man, who police say was shot in the left shoulder on Jan, 19 in the 8500 block of South Constance Avenue in Avalon Park, picked Myers out in "multiple photo arrays," according to a police report.
When Myers went to the police station to turn himself in on Jan. 23, police showed him the Twitter photo, Goldberg said. Police said the guy with the gun in the photo had been identified by the victim as the shooter.
The only problem was the man in the Twitter photo wasn't Myers, said his aunt, Signora Jones.
The 17-year-old Hyde Park High School student was charged as an adult with aggravated battery and jailed.
The family was vindicated Friday when the victim stood before a Cook County judge during a brief preliminary hearing and confirmed that he no longer wanted to pursue charges against Myers.
Goldberg said some of his clients get themselves in trouble with reckless posts.
"Sometimes defendants are implicating [themselves], making statements," he said. "Cops are seeing people poses with guns and going after them. It's reckless."
Goldberg, who almost immediately posted to Facebook about his victory after Myers' hearing, said both police and members of the public should be more careful.