John G. Browning 2017-09-23 03:33:36
THINK YOU’RE FUNNY TOO? PROVE IT! Send your humorous articles of 600 words to email@example.com. Send deposition and trial excerpts to firstname.lastname@example.org. Texting can be a great form of fast, informal communication. It can also be a source of great embarrassment, especially for those who have sent a text to the wrong person or unwittingly replied to a group text with a choice remark about one of the recipients. (Yes, responding to a coworker’s text about how you “hate this place,” not realizing your supervisor is on the thread, will probably make for an awkward performance review.) And sometimes, these technological missteps can get you in legal trouble. Illicit drug transactions seem to be a common source of texting confusion. In 2009, British drug dealer Andrew Law thought he eluded police by dumping his jacket (containing his cellphone, heroin, and cocaine stash) in a garden, according to U.K. news reports. He then tried to get the jacket and its contents back by sending texts to his own phone, assuming that someone had found it. That “someone” turned out to be the police, who delighted in responding to young Andrew’s texts with replies asking him to be more specific on the “stuff” in the pockets. Andrew complied, only to be arrested and convicted on multiple drug charges. In a separate incident, another British man, Lee Streeter, had exchanged cellphone numbers with a police officer who arrested him for marijuana possession in 2012. A month later, Streeter sent several text messages to the officer by mistake (he sent them to everyone in his address book) offering to sell pot. Not surprisingly, Streeter was arrested again, this time sentenced to 16 months. Of course, we have plenty of examples here on this side of the pond as well. Take, for instance, William Lamberson of Martin County, Florida, who misdialed his drug dealer’s number when attempting to purchase marijuana and cocaine. The text messages went instead to a captain in the Martin County Sheriff’s Office Narcotics Unit. The bemused officer at first tried to dissuade Lamberson, texting back “I don’t know you,” local news stations reported. But Lamberson persisted and ultimately the captain obliged, setting up what the police report later referred to as “a controlled cocaine transaction.” Lamberson was arrested and charged with possession with intent to sell, while the sheriff’s office posted screenshots of the texting exchange on its Facebook page, under the heading of “when texting goes wrong.” Earlier this year, Dwayne Hebert texted someone he thought was a drug customer of his in Louisiana, offering to sell crystal meth. But being one digit off can make a world of difference, since the text went to a sheriff’s deputy. Herbert now faces drug and weapons charges. But these examples pale in comparison to the situation Jeffrey Lytle now finds himself in. The 42-yearold Washington state man allegedly intended to send a text message to “Shayne,” a hitman he’d allegedly hired to kill his wife. The “help me kill my wife” text allegedly referenced a prior conversation with the contract killer, saying “I’ll split everything with the insurance 50/50,” and made references to insurance policies on his wife and 4-year-old daughter. The text also hinted that the murders should be staged, saying “If you can make it look like a robbery gone wrong or make it an accident she works at Walmart she gets off at 11:00,” Seattle TV station KIRO 7 reported. There was just one problem with this “help me kill my wife” text: it went by mistake to Lytle’s former boss, who immediately alerted police after receiving it in February 2017. Lytle, who’s been charged with criminal solicitation and is being held on a $1 million bond, insists that it’s all a misunderstanding. He claims the text was a draft that he never intended to send, and he only wrote it to “vent” after a heated argument with his wife. JOHN G. BROWNING is a partner in Passman & Jones in Dallas, where he handles commercial litigation, employment, health care, and personal injury defense matters in state and federal courts. He is an award-winning legal journalist for his syndicated column, “Legally Speaking,” and is the author of the Social Media and Litigation Practice Guide and a forthcoming casebook on social media and the law. He is an adjunct professor at Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law.
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