Facebook Post Saves Teen From Jail

Experts say it was the first case in which Facebook was used as a successful alibi

Thursday, Nov 12, 2009  |  Updated 7:45 AM EDT
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Facebook Post Saves Teen From Jail

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Rodney Bradford on his Facebook site.

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A Brooklyn teen's hunger for pancakes -- and his decision to share it with the Facebook world -- kept him out of jail on a robbery rap.

Rodney Bradford, 19, was accused of the Oct. 17 late morning mugging at gunpoint two men in the Farragut Houses in Brooklyn, where he lives.

Bradford, who was facing charges in a previous robbery, maintained he was in Harlem at the time of the Oct. 17 robbery — a claim supported by his father, Rodney Bradford Sr., and his stepmother, his lawyer said.

But even still, prosecutors pursued charges.

"They had me on Rikers Island for 12 days. It was really miserable," Bradford told The New York Post last night.

"If it wasn't for Facebook I'd still be on Rikers Island," he said.

That's because on Oct. 17 at 11:49 a.m., Bradford left a post on Facebook -- an inside joke to his girlfriend that read "WHERE MY IHOP?" 

The seemingly innocuous post became a major legal tool, as his defense attorneys were able to prove that the Facebook message was left from the IP address at Bradford's father's Harlem home, just as he had said.  More than 13 miles away at the time of the crime in Brooklyn, lawyers said it was impossible that Bradford committed the mugging.

The vernacular -- the slangy reference to pancakes -- also helped his defense.

"It is just a very strong alibi," Bradford's lawyer, Robert Reuland, told the Post. "It reflects the pervasiveness that Web sites and social networking has on our lives."

Some legal experts said the case set a precedent.

“This is the first case that I’m aware of in which a Facebook update has been used as alibi evidence,” said John G. Browning, a lawyer in Dallas who studies social networking and the law. “We are going to see more of that because of how prevalent social networking has become," he told The New York Times.

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