Thanks to a law championed by a former Miami-Dade Police officer, two Florida men face up to five years in prison for photos allegedly showing gang signs posted to their MySpace accounts.
The whole thing is ridiculous. Taxpayer money could be used to house two guys for five years in crowded prisons because of MySpace? A kid who has no other proven connection to gangs could be punished for posting photos of his friends throwing gang signs? When they should be patrolling the streets, police officers are browsing the web for suspicious configurations of fingers? We've got a finger configuration for that.
Rep. William D. Snyder is a veteran of the Miami-Dade Police Department. He joined the Martin County Sherrif's Office in 1994 and subsequently got elected to the Florida House of Representatives as a Republican from Suart. He sponsored House Bill 43, which passed in the 2008 legislative session, that created or tweaked many anti-gang measures, including a portion that made "any person who, for the purpose of benefiting, promoting, or furthering the interests of a criminal gang, uses electronic communication to intimidate or harass other persons, or to advertise his or her presence in the community" liable for punishment.
Now two Florida men will be the first prosecuted under the law in the state, or any similar law in the entire nation.
Snyder has taken to saying vaguely Orwellian things such as this quote from the Naples Daily-News: "We have seen from day one until now that none of our freedoms are absolute, and the freedom of expression is not absolute."
One of the men, 30-year-old lvis Rodriguez, is accused of flashing a Latin Kings gang sign and calling himself "King Kamel." Rodriguez has been arrested several times for nonviolent crimes.
The other, Richard Figueroa-Santiago, age 22, posted pictures of his friends making "Eastside" gestures on his MySpace page. He has no previous criminal record and was a college student at the time of his arrest. His father says his son was not part of a gang.