When a fistfight broke out at Acadiana High School, America being fully digitized by now, a student recorded some of the event on a cellphone. When the student’s parent posted it on social media, the police showed up at her door and arrested her.
The basis, or rather nonbasis, of the arrest is an obscure law that aims to prevent criminals from exploiting social media exposure for notoriety.
Does this apply to a 32-year-old mother who apparently had no other connection to the event? We doubt it, and so do some experts questioning the actions of the Scott Police Department.
Maegan Adkins-Barras, 32, was booked on unlawful posting of criminal activity for notoriety and publicity, and later released. Franz Borghardt, a criminal defense attorney who has taught criminal litigation at the LSU Law School as an adjunct professor, said he had never heard of the law until Adkins-Barras was arrested.
A Broussard mom’s civil rights may have been violated Wednesday when police arrested her for posting a video to social media that shows a figh…
"The police are going to have some hurdles," said Borghardt, who is not representing Adkins-Barras. "They're going to have to either establish that she was a principal or accessory to the fight, and that means they're going to have to establish that she was there and somehow started or encouraged the fight.
Scott Sternberg, who represents The Acadiana Advocate and other newspapers for the Louisiana Press Association, is not a criminal attorney but does question the arrest.
"She obtained the video lawfully," Sternberg said. "This is something we do all the time for the media. If we obtained this video, there's a good chance we would post it. That concerns me. This sets up an extremely difficult precedent that somebody could be arrested for posting a video they lawfully obtained."
School Superintendent Don Aguillard said the police acted on their own, not at the instigation of the school system, but that the “new law” might be added to student handbooks next year.
The “new” law is apparently a decade old this fall, passed unanimously by the Legislature in 2008 and signed by then-Gov. Bobby Jindal. However, it appears to be little applied, if ever.
Scott Police Chief Chad Leger addressed the arrest on social media: "Posting videos and photos of illegal activity on social media is against the law in the State of Louisiana. Violators of the law could be fined not more than five hundred dollars or imprisoned for not more than six months, or both."
This is not our reading of the 2008 law, nor is it a sensible approach for police agencies. For one thing, the First Amendment to the United States Constitution has not been repealed in Scott, and that fundamental law protects freedom of speech.
Proving that the mother involved was seeking notoriety will be difficult, unless hundreds of millions of others who post on social media every day are guilty of the same offense.
This seems a drastic overreaction from the police force. The students involved in the original altercation are being dealt with by school officials. One was taken to a hospital for treatment of minor injuries and since released. The juveniles both have been recommended for expulsion and are facing criminal charges, officials said.
Perhaps that should have been the end of it.