Nova Scotia

Facebook extortionist gets conditional discharge

A Nova Scotia teen convicted of possession and distribution of child pornography and extortion after using fake Facebook accounts to torment two girls online — to the point they tried to take their own lives — won't go to jail for his crimes.

Judge Anne Derrick called teen's actions 'thoughtless, casual cruelty'

A Halifax-area man was given a conditional discharge after being convicted in April of internet harassment in connection with a Facebook hoax 2:00

A Nova Scotia teen convicted of possession and distribution of child pornography and extortion after using fake Facebook accounts to torment two girls online — to the point they tried to take their own lives — won't go to jail for his crimes.

Judge Anne Derrick gave the 19-year-old a conditional discharge, meaning he will have no record if he doesn't violate the conditions accompanying the sentence. She also ordered him to give a DNA sample and perform 100 hours of community service. 

As well, the youth:

  • Is banned from unsupervised computer use, plus a complete ban on social media use.
  • Must forfeit the computer he used to commit the crimes.

She did not prohibit him from being around children, as the Crown had requested. 

Derrick said he "took advantage of the murky opportunities afforded by the internet's anonymity." She described it as a violent offence, as it endangered the safety of the victims and caused psychological harm. 

The youth cannot be identified because he was underage at the time of the crimes, which began in 2012. Before sentencing, he was ordered to undergo a psychiatric assessment.

Derrick told the court that his actions amounted to "thoughtless, casual cruelty."

The accused said in his pre-sentence report to Derrick that his actions in this crime were "like I was in a dream." 

"I'm disgusted by my actions so much that it keeps me up nights."

No certainty things on the internet are gone

In court on Tuesday, the Crown had argued the young man should receive two years of probation, a weapons ban and an order that he stay away from people under age 14.

Mark Heerema, Crown attorney, said this kind of trauma never leaves a victim, especially in the digital age when one can't be certain photos and videos are truly gone from the internet. 

"It goes without saying that it was a very traumatic and difficult experience for the victim," he said.

"Certainly there's a fear that once there are images on the internet, can you ever be certain that they're gone?"

Heerema said he expects cases like these to become more common.

"It's a troubling case on many levels. It's a case that certainly highlights, I think, an area of our society that will present increasing challenges, not just for courts, law enforcement, parents and teenagers themselves coming to grips with the realities of social media and … some of the harm that can occur. 

The man's defence lawyer, Peter Planetta, had sought the two-year conditional discharge, meaning he would have no record if he did not violate the conditions.

Girl extorted to send nude pictures

The court heard that the youth was 16 when he interacted with two girls using two separate fake Facebook accounts between November 2012 and November 2013.

Court heard that after extended conversations over a number of months, the teen told the girls that one of the fake Facebook users had committed suicide.

This prompted the two girls to attempt suicide, court was told.

The tormenting continued, after one of the girls became suspicious that the accounts were fake.

She demanded to know the real identity of the person behind them. He told her that he would reveal his identity if she sent him naked photographs of herself.

She sent him two images of her bare torso — one in which she was wearing a bra, and one with no bra. He then threatened to publish the images unless she sent him more nude pictures. He posted the photo on her own Facebook page, where her 2,000 friends could see it. That led to the distribution charge. 

"Eh girl can I get a flash lol or this pic goes out lol," said one his messages, read in court. "U got 5 minutes."

In April, the teen was convicted of the criminal offences of extortion, possession of child pornography and possession of child pornography for the purposes of distribution.

Corrections

  • An earlier version of this story said the Nova Scotia teen convicted of possession of child pornography and extortion was given probation. In fact, he was given a conditional discharge.
    Oct 09, 2015 10:23 AM AT

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