While the name Justin Bieber draws a total blank around here, apparently he’s got something that makes pre-adolescent juices flow. Enough so that about 3,000 young women, with their parents since someone had to drive them, came to Roosevelt Field Mall in Nassau Count, New York. Apparently, the nice people who run the mall, and were aware that 15 year old Mr. Bieber would be making a personal appearance, were caught unprepared for such devotion.
The police, fearful of the unconstrained crowds, decided that things had gotten out of hand and were, appropriately, fearful that bad things were going to happen. So they turned to James Roppo, 44, an executive with Island Def Jam records, and told him to twit :
Police said that Roppo, senior vice president for sales for Island Def Jam Records, was at the mall Friday and hindered crowd control by not cooperating when police requested that he send a Twitter message asking the crowd to leave.
Diane Peress, Nassau assistant district attorney, said that Roppo created a “very dangerous situation” by failing to help police disperse the fans gathered on a second-floor balcony.
“Young people were being pressed up against the glass,” Peress said. The group pressed against a railing so hard that it was bent, she said.
People could have fallen from the balcony or the rail could have collapsed, Peress said. “It’s a miracle more kids and more people weren’t injured.”
Roppo was arraigned on a string of charges on Saturday.
|PL 195.05 00|| A Misdemeanor, 1 count, Arrest charge, Arraignment charge|
Description Obstrct Gvrnmntl Admn 2nd
|PL 260.10 01|| A Misdemeanor, 1 count, Arrest charge, Arraignment charge|
Description Act Manr Injur Child < 17
|PL 120.20 00|| A Misdemeanor, 1 count, Arrest charge, Arraignment charge|
Description Reckless Endangerment 2nd
|PL 240.45 01|| B Misdemeanor, 1 count, Arrest charge, Arraignment charge|
Description Endangering Health Of Oth
| PL 120.05 03 |
| D Felony, 1 count, Arrest charge, Arraignment charge|
Description Aslt- 2:int Caus Ph Inj To Off
The top count, assault in the second degree, provides:
3. With intent to prevent a police officer . . . from performing a lawful duty, he causes physical injury to such police officer.
Nowhere in the reports of the fracas is there any information about Roppo causing physical injury to a police officer. As to the lesser charges, each involves the commission of an act. If the police claims are accurate, which Roppo denies, his offense was one of omission, not commission.
Even with that, it appears that the allegations may be wrong. As Peter Kafka at Media Memos shows, twits were indeed twitted to tell the young ladies to scram.
Slightly confusing, because Bieber’s Twitter account–presumably the one the cops wanted Roppo to use–does indeed show that he asked his fans to leave at 4:30 pm Eastern :
But apparently that was too late :
There appears to be absolutely no legal basis whatsoever to support the prosecution of James Roppo, whether one believes the police that he’s a terrible man for failing to do as they told him or not. There simply isn’t any duty to twit, nor any argument to support the allegation that his failure to do as he was told by police violated a duty imposed on him by law.
While it may well be the right thing to do to help police to disperse a crowd of unhappy girls, full of whatever flows through their bodies at the thought to Justin Bieber, the failure to do so isn’t a crime. This didn’t stop First District Judge Anthony Paradiso from imposing $50,000 bail, apparently in order to assure that Roppo didn’t flee to Tasmania to avoid the charges. Perhaps he feared that Roppo would be a threat to society by not twitting again. The reasoning is unclear.
It’s hardly clear that a twit by Roppo, or by Justin Bieber as the case may be, would have had any impact on this situation, and there’s little doubt that it had the
potential for danger. Given the demographics, it’s hard to imagine that most of the young ladies would have been aware of a twit had it been sent. Of course, perhaps the mothers and fathers present would have gotten it and told their kids that it was time to go home. If anything, a twit by Justin Bieber would have certainly been more likely to convey the point than one by Roppo.
But regardless of the efficacy of the twit, the police cannot manufacture a duty to act, upon pain of criminal liability, just because they want to. It doesn’t matter whether the twit would have helped or not, whether the situation is dangerous or not. The police sought to impose a duty on Roppo to twit as he was told. No such duty exists, and criminal liability is imposed for an act, not an omission. Even in Nassau County, which has long had its share of twits, even before twitter was invented.
H/T Ed. at Blawgreview, who has taken quite a shine to this story.