Facebook Posting That Someone Has Herpes Is Criminal Harassment–Pennsylvania v. Cox

27 08 2013

[Post by Venkat Balasubramani with a comment by Eric]

Commonwealth v. Cox, 2013 PA Super 221 (Aug 2, 2013) [pdf]

Lindsey Marie Cox (age 18) posted the following comment to her Facebook page:

[Victim, age 15] has herpes. Ew, that’s gross. She should stop spreading her legs like her mother.

Ill-advised, imprudent, and something that she should learn to not do if she wants to become a functioning member of online society.  But criminal harassment? LOL.

The statute says that the crime of harassment occurs when someone (1) with the intent to “harass, annoy or alarm another” (2) posts “lewd, lascivious, threatening or obscene words” or other materials.

She was convicted following a jury trial. On appeal. Cox predictably argued that this wasn’t a matter that the Commonwealth should concern itself with, at least from the criminal side. The court rejects this argument, saying that defendant intentionally made the post, and a statement that a 15 year old is sexually active or has an STD can be considered lewd or obscene: “Cox’s conduct was the type of conduct the legislature sought to criminalize under the harassment statute . . . .” Cox also argued that the verdict was against the weight of the evidence, but the court says she does not satisfy the high standard necessary to challenge the verdict.


[ed note: I’ve organized this post under “Digital IP Torts” and “Cyberbullying,” but it is neither. The state tried the case as a criminal harassment case. Eric and Venkat both belittle the outcome; yet, it is what it is: a guilty criminal verdict over accusatory words posted online (by an 18 year old). I don’t have a category for criminal online harassment and won’t start one unless we begin seeing a lot of similar cases]

The content in this post was found at http://blog.ericgoldman.org/archives/2013/08/student_convict_1.htm and was not authored by the moderators of freeforafee.com. Clicking the title link will take you to the source of the post.



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