Ex-Boyfriend Threatens To Post Plaintiff’s Nude Pics; Has Restraining Order Lifted
A New Jersey opinion from last month is noteworthy in that it highlights a rather dated attitude towards social media, the kind that we don’t see too often. Some background: the parties used to be in a relationship, and then things went awry. From the opinion in E.C. v. S.B.T., SR.:
Plaintiff testified that defendant was her “ex-boyfriend.” They had lived together between May and August 2011, but now lived separately. Since their separation, plaintiff testified all the parties did was argue. She alleged defendant caused a scene with one of her customers at work; threatened to tell her parents that her father had cheated on her step-mother; and told her he planned to post “sexual photographs” she had taken of herself and given to him on “Craigslist and some other dirty sites – - just to put them out there on dirty, sexual sites.”
However, on cross-examination, plaintiff admitted the parties continued to have an intimate relationship at least through June 2012. She also admitted that shortly before the August 18, 2012 incident that formed the basis for her request for a [final restraining order], she again sent defendant a “slide show” of compromising photographs of herself.
The opinion contains plenty more lurid details about a run-in at a high school reunion (the aforementioned incident), a screaming match, the defendant following plaintiff home and threatening her friend. There were also, apparently, threatening Facebook messages, though their content was not disclosed. All good stuff. The defendant’s side of the story is also presented. Plaintiff sought, and was granted, a restraining order, and defendant’s appeal is the focus of this recent opinion. In her original opinion, the trial judge said this:
I don’t give a lot of credence to e-mails and Facebook and all that nonsense because that’s not a face to face exchange. Nobody is in danger. Nobody suffers from that.
That’s an interesting thing to say. Arguably, there is danger or malice or harassment in electronic communications – hence the concepts of cyberbullying, cyberstalking, etc. On appeal, the instant court reversed, finding that the plaintiff was not in “immediate danger”, and that the defendant had not committed enough of a predicate act, like stalking.
The issue of defendant’s threat of distributing the racy pictures is not addressed, unfortunately, so with the restraining order lifted, is he free to upload the pictures as he sees fit? Would a restraining order have been the best remedy, as opposed to some kind of injunction? And what of that trial judge’s statements about non “face to face exchange[s]“? Though not a tech law case, this one had plenty for us to to think about.