Duty To Twit

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.”

There’s little doubt that this could have turned to tragedy, with potential harm to many young people.  But to blame this “very dangerous situation” on James Roppo is hard to comprehend.  Clearly, he didn’t cause it.  There’s no allegation that he engaged in any affirmative act that either gave rise to a danger or contributed to a danger.  What he did, according to the police side of the story, is fail to twit.  This raises a simple question: Is there a duty to twit?

Roppo was arraigned on a string of charges on Saturday.

ChargeDetail Disposition/Sentence
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 :

bieber twitter

But apparently that was too late :

bieber twitter 2

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.

15 thoughts on “Duty To Twit

  1. Norm Pattis

    I have not twitted as yet, and have only read about it here. But as I looked at this piece, the following sprang to mind: social flatulence.

  2. Kathleen Casey

    Where is law enforcement’s usual enthusiasm for disorderly conduct? I figured some element or other works, and at least one of them does, from the statutory language which is all their information needs. And my imagination is limited. When a person “creates a hazardous or physically offensive condition by any act which serves no legitimate purpose.” P.L. §240.20(7).

    A serviceable dismissal motion discussing a few of the cases could get it tossed but this should have a longer shelf life than the Mass. discon charge Prof. Gates had to contend with.

  3. SHG

    Aw c’mon.  This should have never made it through ECAB, it should have been tossed arraignment, at the very least, Roppo should have been ROR’d.  How could any judge keep from laughing at this case?

  4. Jdog

    Inquiring minds want to know: was a condition of a release an electronic monitor on his computer that sends out alarms if he doesn’t tweet enough?

  5. Kathleen Casey

    Aw c’mon yourself big boy. Do you think I’m serious??

    We get reminded now and then that some of our judges are exceptionally humorless. Isn’t that true?

  6. Blind Guy

    This could be a new topic for the Rice lecture tour. She has hit most of the schools in Nassau County re: DWI’s. Why not twitting?

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