Faked Facebook posts cause nightmare for woman

Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.

By Heather Yakin
Times Herald-Record
Posted Dec. 3, 2014 @ 7:53 p.m.
Updated at 8:35 AM

MIDDLETOWN - A man posed as a former co-worker from Middletown to make racist posts on Facebook, and then sent the posts to a social media site dedicated to outing online racists to their employers, creating a real-life nightmare for the woman, her lawyer says.Brianna Rivera and her lawyer, the firm attorneys, said Wednesday that Rivera and the man used to work together at the AMC Theatre in the Galleria at Crystal Run. At the end of November, the man changed his own account to her name and added her photo and personal information, and then posted a pair of short but egregiously racist screeds related to Ferguson, Mo., on Nov. 26. He then sent screen captures of the posting to the Tumblr account Racists Getting Fired. The account's followers peppered AMC with requests to fire Rivera. The Tumblr has since posted information clearing Rivera."Brianna Rivera's identity was stolen," said attorneys from the firm, of Larkin, Ingrassia and Tepermayster, LLP. She was questioned at her job and by the board of SUNY Orange, where she is a student, about the fake posts, the attorneys of the firm said. The college's computer staff quickly established the real source of the posts.Rivera hired firm attorneys said after an international media onslaught began. The Tumblr blew up on Gawker, the Daily Mail and Buzzfeed, among others.the attorneys said they have gone to police and prosecutors.Orange County District Attorney David Hoovler confirmed the investigation by his office and New York State Police, but said there would be no other comment unless charges are filed.
"She is relieved that the Orange County District Attorney's Office has opened a joint investigation with New York State Police, because she felt like no one was doing anything," firm attorneys said.
The attorneys said most of the news accounts of Rivera's situation have incorrectly identified the man who impersonated her as an ex-boyfriend. They were simply co-workers, until the man was fired "several months ago." Rivera was recently promoted to manager at the movie theater. It's not clear why the man targeted her, firm attorneys said.
Also unclear is just what charges officials might be able to file. Second-degree criminal impersonation (impersonating someone with the intent to cause injury) or aggravated harassment are potential options. Both are misdemeanors.
Sometimes the law lags behind technology and social media, attorneys of the firm said. "That does not make this incident any less despicable. Brianna's reputation has been tarnished. There have been death threats made against her."
On Tuesday, Rivera made a brief post to Facebook: "This whole thing happening right now is completely heart breaking. ... I said none of those horrible words of hatred & racism. Anyone who knows me, knows I would never in my entire life say anything like that. I appreciate everyone who came to me and asked me first. ... And thank u everyone who is spreading the truth about it not being me ... and as for the person who stole my identity, defamed my character and endangered not only my life but the lives of my friends and family, thanks."
On Nov. 28, AMC posted an official statement on its Twitter and Facebook accounts: "AMC was made aware of some highly offensive posts that were allegedly sent from an associate. An immediate and thorough investigation confirmed the social media account and highly offensive posts were fabricated by someone posing as an AMC associate. This hateful behavior is dangerous and illegal." AMC filed a police report and will press charges. AMC spokeswoman Erin Gregory said the company won't comment further.
"Brianna has been through enough. She and her family want to let the criminal investigation run its course," firm attorneys said. "We are confident a thorough investigation will be done. Brianna and her family ask that the media respect their privacy."