The "Facebook case" continues to garner attention around the world.
A local story has made headlines in newspapers and received lots of attention from other media across the U.S. and in other countries, including England, India and Belgium.
The story: an Arkadelphia mom faces harassment charges after allegedly posting comments on her 16-year-old son’s Facebook page. The son is listed as the official victim in the case after reporting the incident in early March. The State of Arkansas is the plaintiff against 35-year-old Denise New of 215 Gum St.
Facts at a glance
The boy lives with his grandmother who has legal custody
The boy and his mother were involved in a physical altercation recently
The mom allegedly logged in as the boy and posted comments that he had lied about the altercation
The mom says she has a right to “monitor” her son’s Internet activity
The case is due to be heard in Clark County Court on May 12
According to an affidavit filed in the Clark County District Court’s office, New allegedly “hacked” into her son’s Facebook account to change his password. The boy lives with his grandmother, who has legal guardianship. The custody of the boy, according to New’s attorney, stems from a difficult divorce. The attorney, Hot Springs-based Michael King, had no additional details on why the grandmother has custody. The divorce case, he said, pre-dates his involvement with New.
She also apparently posted comments that disclosed private, personal facts about her son’s life.
New, however, has told state media that she is the victim in the case because she has the parental right to “monitor” her son’s account.
New declined comment Tuesday afternoon, referring questions to her attorney, Michael King of Hot Springs.
King said that, if she did post something on his account, she “was simply trying to get him to listen to her in some way as her plea for him to leave the Facebook alone.” According to King, New said her son had previously been at her home and posted some information, which New believes “could be dangerous to his well being.”
Did she hack into his account and post comments?
“I think she has said that she did,” King said. “There have been so many stories (in the media), I don’t know what all” is true. “She gave some interviews before I started representing her. If she did, it was an attempt to get his attention to leave the thing alone and get him to the table somehow with that issue. The tenor of the communications was what she perceived to be harmful to his well-being.”
Asked if the media picked up on the story or if New approached the media, King said, “I don’t know who called first. There have been an amazing number of calls (from media outlets).”
King said he began representing New on Thursday, and said the “flurry” of media began searching for details after he advised her not to comment. “I don’t’ know if she approached them, or if they approached her,” King added. “I certainly didn’t call them.”
The son just wants all the attention to go away, said attorney Travis Berry, who noted he is “not involved in the case. I’m just trying to protect the minor from further exposure.” Berry said that, though the relationship between New and her son is “strained,” the two share a mutual love. “He doesn’t want her arrested” for the harassment charges.
Berry said the media picked up on the story because of Facebook’s popularity. Facebook is a social networking Web site that allows users to post photos, information and share anything that is on the user’s mind. Others with Facebook accounts can view that posted information, depending on the user’s privacy settings and age. Anyone 13 or older with a valid e-mail address can use the Web site. More than 400 million people around the world have an account.
Berry said he became interested in the case because the issue as related by the media “was confusing. I think the media has every right to access stories of interest, because this story involves the parent’s right to monitor a Facebook account. But the story broke because a parent was criminally charged for limiting her child’s social networking site.”
Officials still remain tight-lipped about what was apparently posted. New says she was only monitoring her son’s account.
Berry agrees that a parent should have the right to monitor her child’s Internet activity. “Monitoring your child’s Facebook is OK,” he said.
However, impersonating someone else, posting inappropriate language and/or disclosing private facts on the site is not OK, he said.
Berry told Fox News Live on Monday that New went “way overboard” with the “monitoring” of her son’s account. He said New logged on as her son after the two had a physical altercation and, posing as him, posted comments that stated he had “lied” and “made up” the incident just to get her arrested. No records in the Clark County Sheriff’s Office indicate that New has been arrested since the alleged incident took place.
“A parent has a right and an obligation to monitor a child’s Facebook account.” But since the Clark County Prosecutor’s Office filed charges to protect a minor’s well being, Berry said, “it will require a lot more than ‘monitoring’ to be upheld in court.”
A trial is scheduled for May 12 in front of District Judge Randy Hill.
Asked how New’s son is handling the attention, Berry said, “He’s getting through it. It’s tough. He just wants it over with.”
King agrees. “At this point, I would hope that the media’s flurry of activity that started before my involvement in this case is dying down and will die down, and this thing will be resolved as every criminal charge or citation should be — in court, between the defense counsel and the prosecuting attorney. I’ve told (Berry) the same thing, and I know he agrees.”