Facebook is usually just a running feed of pictures, talk about the weather and inspirational quotes. (Mine is, anyway; maybe your friends are more exciting.) But sometimes Facebook status updates are a little more interesting. And by “interesting,” we mean “criminal.” Here are ten.
1. Anthony Elonis discovered his wife was cheating on him. After she left, he began posting all manner of horrifying things to Facebook, which were then reported to Lehigh Valley authorities and the FBI, including threats against his estranged wife, a former employer who fired him, an FBI agent, and most frightening of all, a plan to attack schoolchildren: “Hell hath no fury like a crazy man in a kindergarten class." Elonis claimed the updates were rap lyrics he wrote, but jurors were unconvinced. His conviction comes with a maximum 20-year sentence (determined in January 2012) for four counts of violating the interstate communications law, which prohibits threats of violence across state lines.
2. Keeley Houghton terrorized Emily Moore for four years—including damage to her home and a physical attack by Houghton and two friends—but it was a Facebook status that got her arrested. After posting a death-threat tirade against Moore on her own wall, Houghton became the first person in the UK jailed for Internet bullying. She served 3 months in jail in 2009.
3. "Has any1 else eva thought bout strappin a bomb on n walk n a police department n blowin da (expletive) up." If so, you might want to consider not talking about it on Facebook, unlike Montigo Arrington of Tarrant, Alabama, who went ahead and clicked ‘Post.’ Jefferson County deputies were anonymously tipped-off to Arrington’s update and showed up at the man’s house, where officers allegedly discovered child pornography on Arrington’s computer. His bail is set at $20,000. The deputy involved had some great advice for would-be provocateurs: “Do not post something stupid on the Internet for all the world to see. Most especially, a blatant threat to law enforcement."
4. Hazel Cunningham was drawing income support, housing benefit and council tax benefit, citing single parenthood and unemployment. But then a city investigator noticed that the woman’s Facebook page was filled with photos of Cunningham with her children enjoying vacations to Turkey and an elaborate wedding in Barbados (to the husband she said she didn’t have). In addition to her 120-day prison sentence, Cunningham was ordered to pay back the £15,000 she’d swindled from taxpayers.
5. Don’t tell the Internet you’ve kidnapped a woman… especially if you haven’t. Douglas Martin of Riverdale, IL, did, and the cops received a tip from a concerned acquaintance. No unwilling resident was found; the updates were apparently “part of a creative writing project,” but the heroin residue, bag of marijuana and bathroom “covered in white powder” were very real. Martin has been charged with possession of a controlled substance, possession of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia.
6. During the London riots is probably not the best time to set up a Facebook event to start a similar riot in your own town, but two teens did just that, inviting friends to a “Smash down in Northwich Town.” Unfortunately for Perry Sutcliffe-Keenan and Jordan Blackshaw, only the police showed up. They were each sentenced to four years in jail for inciting public disorder via social media; both intend to appeal.
7. A teen inspired by the film Shank, in which gangs take over London, posted a series of updates encouraging his Facebook friends to “kill a million Fedz” and one taking requests for a planned looting trip. “Rioting 2nyt anyone want anything from Flannels?” earned Amed Pelle 33 months in jail.
8. Craig “Lazie” Lynch walked out of a minimum security prison, where he was serving a seven-year sentence for armed robbery, nearly a year before his scheduled release. Instead of keeping a low profile like most escaped convicts, Lynch became the Facebook Fugitive and spent his days posting literal and figurative one-finger salutes to authorities, collecting over 40,000 fans and inspiring a theme song (NSFW) in the process. The four-month search for Lynch was a media frenzy, which Lynch helped fuel with Facebook updates daring police to “do what they’re payed [sic] for.” He was recaptured in January 2010 by Scotland Yard and his Facebook page has since been deleted.
9. During a Scottish Cup replay game, Stephen Birrell posted “religiously and racially motivated comments” about Catholics and Celtic supporters in a Facebook group called “Neil Lennon Should Be Banned.” His remarks, most about killing Catholics, were deemed a hate crime and “unacceptable in modern Scotland" by the country’s solicitor general and he was sentenced to eight months in prison. Birrell is also banned from attending football events for five years.
10. It’s not unusual for hunters to take pictures of their catch, but if you’re breaking state game limits then you might want to reconsider sharing them online. The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries cited Brandon Lowry of Norco, LA, for hauling in 64 ducks on a recent trip—well over the maximum eight allowed during teal season—after he posted pictures to Facebook. If convicted, Lowry’s looking at fines between $400 and $950, up to 120 days in jail, or both.