Given these issues surrounding the visibility of association with content, especially for black and Latino youth Patton, Brunton, et al. Tagging, particularly of photos, is a popular activity.
Increased visibility is one of the most important outcomes of tagging and is a notable privacy concern of users. Within the gang context, this is especially important. Individuals may have relationships with those involved in gang activity, merely by being neighbors or classmates.
Additionally, these relationships may provide an individual with protection and many types of support Garot, , without both parties being gang-affiliated. This leads to our next question: RQ2: In what ways were defendants associated with each other because of social media?
The authors had photocopied documents professionally transcribed as Word documents. The first author began fieldwork as an outreach worker in an anti-violence youth ministry in , about 15 months before the first indictment, and participated in the organization working on various community activities and especially youth services. The — gang indictments that are subject of our study warrant careful examination because they suggest a harbinger of legal practices to come.
These cases were the first gang takedowns to include social media as criminal evidence in the jurisdiction in question and the DA commented publicly in that the office was going to apply the same strategies to domestic violence, grand larceny, and other types of cases. We expect ramifications in other jurisdictions also. These specific gang investigations informed a Department of Justice manual for law enforcement on the use of social media. The prosecution alleged a total of 1, overt acts in the seven indictments combined. Then the second author composed a spreadsheet of all of the overt acts coded as social media acts.
All other social media types had fewer than 30 counts. The data analysis then proceeded in discrete stages that harnessed the strengths of different methods. The corpus of fieldwork included fieldnote entries and 37 formally recorded interviews and numerous informal interviews with prosecutors, defenders, and community members.
In the memos, the first two authors deliberated and agreed upon a set of ways in which the prosecutors appeared to use social media. Stage two entailed a series of member checks with prosecutors, defenders, and community members to incorporate the perspective of legal actors on both sides in addition to members of the targeted community.
Once this analytical framework was established, the three authors worked as a team without software assistance to identify, define, and assign subcategories and sub-subcategories of these two forms of association that collectively covered the full corpus of social media acts.
Because the parent categories and subcategories were overlapping and to preserve complexity, we agreed upon a set of nested exemplars to report as results. This mixed-method, collaborative approach employed established reliability and validity practices in qualitative research outlined in Small that we hope provides a model for content analysis of public legal documents.
We look first at how the social media acts were used to associate a defendant with incriminating expressive content. The social media acts included bragging behaviors. Prosecutors associated defendants with talk or displays of guns or bullets. As expected, expressing gang pride or cohesion was included in the social media acts. Along with written expressions of gang allegiance and support, photographed physical gestures were also interpreted as acts of conspiracy. The social media acts were also used to associate a defendant with incriminating instrumental content, including transactions; requesting assistance i.
Most transactions referred to communication about the purchase or sale of a gun or ammunition. The transaction did not need to be completed or connected to a gun offense to constitute an overt act of conspiracy. Evidence of action taken to move the crime forward was enough.
Alexander, E. Schwartz, W. Hanson, and D. The list includes a total of six incidents in and , including two where Simmons was arrested for possession of a gun. Trulear, H. Parks, B.
Prosecutors utilized what appeared to be calls for gang assistance—asking, encouraging, or instructing another person to help with alleged gang activity such as finding, fighting, or shooting a rival. The social media acts included content in which defendants seemingly made threats against other individuals or groups.
Whether youth in gang contexts perceive a threat in the first place depends on the surrounding offline context and relationships Patton, Leonard, et al. Threats on social media are generally safer than in person Patton et al.
Dr. Yablonsky is a California licensed physchotherapist. He has interviewed over 5, criminals in prison, “therapeutic communities” and psychiatric hospitals. Editorial Reviews. Review. Reference Research Book News -- May 3, Yablonsky Gangs in Court, Second Edition - Kindle edition by Lewis Yablonsky .
Finally, prosecutors were able to associate incriminating content with defendants because sharing content generated an action attributable to at least one defendant. The productive aspect of social media gave prosecutors leverage to establish overt acts of conspiracy. Defendants in the later indictments showed an awareness of the criminal risk involved with posting such content to social media and even alerted or gave instructions to restrict the visibility of their communication.
To charge conspiracy, prosecutors associated individuals with one another. Each indictment charged all defendants with conspiracy to commit a felony e. Along with incriminating content, the social media acts were used to associate the defendants with each other. Threads of written message were sometimes used to associate defendants.
Overt acts can refer to otherwise non-criminal activity that becomes criminal as part of the conspiracy. Photos gathered from social media also associated defendants with each other. Co-appearances in photos or text added to the photos provided connections between the co-defendants. Being tagged in a photo was also used to establish association between defendants. Associations based on co-appearance, tagging, or other aspects of photos can be especially precarious as criminal evidence because social media can render commensurate neighborhood ties that are shifting and highly contingent Lane, No text was added to the photo.
It showed a group standing together. The photo, however, was used as the sole evidence to generate a new felony charge from an already adjudicated juvenile gun case. Because he appeared with other defendants in a posted photo, the earlier crime was now considered part of the currently charged conspiracy. SMV affords police and prosecutors associative evidence that can be used to tie suspects to incriminating content and to each other. Under conspiracy law, prosecutors can marshal social media use as a criminal act.
Through SMV, prosecutors have developed a new tool for charging individuals with conspiracy crime. In our analysis of the social media acts, we grappled with the tension between crime fighting and exacerbating inequality. SMV raises red flags because to navigate gang relations requires posturing, managing social distance, and other ongoing facework filtered out when social media content is taken at face value.
Prosecutors and grand jurors treated social media communication as reliable and admissible evidence even as it was frequently related to expressive forms of communication—reputation-enhancing bragging or displaying of weapons and showing or building gang cohesion. What we know of social media and gangs—independently and together—tells us that taking messages on their own terms is risky.
Individuals engage in impression and reputation management on social media. Gang-affiliated individuals are especially known for exaggerating exploits. Even a seeming admission may be an untruthful form of bragging about a crime. Kubrin and Nielson note that in the absence of physical evidence, prosecutors have used gangsta rap music lyrics to infer criminal intent. Gangs symbols, on social media or otherwise, are another questionable area given their utilization by young people who are not actually gang members.
That being said, the social media acts often pointed to more serious criminal activity, most notably, the instrumental uses of social media for transactional communication about guns and ammunition, calling for assistance, or threatening rivals that can possibly be exaggerated as well. In addition to content, we found that associations to others via social media—either through photos, friends lists, content tagging, or private messages—were used to demonstrate criminal conspiracy, even when such ties may be ambiguous. Young people living in an area with gangs are more likely to be associated with gang members.
But association does not make one a gang member themselves. We believe these issues should give criminal justice actors pause, especially since defendants rarely have their day in court in a system that treats plea-bargaining as a caseload necessity Howell, The seven gang indictments overwhelmingly produced convictions for of the defendants in total. This is an astounding figure, even as it refers to a conviction on any charge.
Only 12 of the defendants took their cases to trial. Barely any indictment cases were affected by the examination of the evidence at trial. The critical stage for all defendants proved to be the grand jury: the accusation phase. In the state in which the indictments were filed, the DA must present its case to a grand jury before felony charges can be brought. The grand jury must find reasonable cause to believe that the defendants committed the crimes alleged by the prosecution.
As allegations, the burden of proof falls below the trial threshold of proof beyond a reasonable doubt. In all seven gang indictments in this study, a grand jury indeed returned an indictment. After being indicted, most defendants took a plea, which has life-altering consequences Howell, But we also saw that prosecutors ultimately presented more compelling evidence from social media.