Four Guilderland High School students have been charged with a crime that wasn’t even on the books until about three years ago. It’s a cyber-bullying case that affects dozens of other students in their community and got the attention of police earlier this month.
Police say they’re not sure what the motivation was, but they are certain that four Guilderland High School juniors harassed and bullied many of their classmates in a profanity-laced rap music video that made its way onto the internet earlier this month.
After the five minute video made its way onto YouTube in early November, more than one thousand people watched and listened to the vulgar lyrics and sexually charged innuendos that specifically mentioned several Guilderland High School students. At least two of them went to police.
“We were concerned about it,” said Guilderland Police Captain Curtis Cox, “When we have victims come forward that are concerned. These people were targeted, the names of these individuals were there.”
During the ensuing investigation, four individuals were identified and on Thursday charges of cyber-bullying were filed against 17-year old Michael Malone, 16-year old Giovanni Santoro, 16-year old Joshua Thompson, and 17-year old Parker Carmichael — all of them charged as adults.
“It is a serious matter,” Cox emphasizes, “People across the country are suffering from the psychological affects of being bullied. Some have committed suicide and I think that speaks for itself.”
Albany County Legislator Christopher Higgins says Local Law F — which criminalized cyber-bullying — passed unanimously in 2010 because lawmakers realized something like the Guilderland case could happen, and, in fact, was happening in other parts of the country in epidemic fashion.
“Essentially it’s harassment over the internet,” Higgins explains, “One of the important parts is to have some penalty provisions in there so the folks understand there are repercussions. You’re not necessarily going to get away with a slap on the wrist if you behave in this type of manner.”
The maximum penalty for the four teens, if convicted, would be a year in jail or a thousand dollar fine.
“Anyone who thinks that behavior such as this, and putting it on YouTube which goes worldwide (is appropriate would be grossly incorrect),” Cox says, “and we wold get the message out that we’re not going to tolerate it.”
The constitutionality of Albany County’s cyber-bullying law is currently being tested in court. Some legal scholars believe there may be First Amendment issues involved, but Christopher Higgins, who is an attorney, says he’s confident that Local Law F will pass constitutional muster.
The four teens were given appearance tickets and are due back in court December 5th.