U.S. District Attorney says criminals are using social media to intimidate witnesses into silence

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BALTIMORE, MD – U.S. District Attorney for the District of Maryland, Robert Hur, recently shared his comments on the evolution of witness intimidation – namely, the use of social media to scare people away from testifying or reporting crime. 

The city of Baltimore happened to be home to the “Stop Snitchin’ campaign” back in 2004, back when a DVD titled “Stop Snitching!” began circulating two years after the murder of Angele and Carnell Dawson and their five children were murdered for reporting crime to police in Baltimore. 

But times have changed in the era of intimidating witnesses. 

It’s no longer DVDs making the rounds or people wearing t-shirts in courtrooms that say “stop snitching”. Now the name of the game is plastering people’s pictures online and alleging they’re cooperating with criminal investigations. 

Some are reportedly even posting people’s pictures online and attempting to extort them for money in order to have their respective “snitch” allegations removed. 

Hur commented on the rising trend: 

“They’re using social media for example to post pictures of people. They label them as cooperators, and threaten physical harm to them.”

But Hur says that investigators have little tolerance for said practices, noting that any illegal activities by these intimidators will be prosecuted: 

“I want the message to get out there, if you touch a witness, we are going to bring you to justice. It might take a little while but we are going to bring you to justice.”

The only caveat being that when one social media page is removed, another seems to crop up just as quickly. The Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office is also quite savvy to the social media efforts to intimidate witnesses. 

A statement was recently released by Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby reads as follows: 

“We are aware of these social media pages, and are actively working with our law enforcement partners to investigate them. Witness intimidation has evolved with technology like everything else in our world today.”

The released statement emphasized the importance of witnesses coming forth to help secure convictions to get criminals off the streets:

“Recognizing that it would be virtually impossible to obtain convictions without the trust and cooperation of the community, our latest campaign is the most recent milestone in our commitment to keeping victims and witnesses safe and informed.”

The Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office has recently dedicated a resource page online in concurrence with a tip line and series of public service announcements aiming to combat these intimidation efforts. 

The PSAs, which are appearing on both radio and television,  offer perspectives that detail accounts of:

“[F]amily members who have been impacted by crime, while highlighting an array of victim and witness services such as court accompaniment, victim and witness relocation, sign language interpreters, victim impact statements, arrangement of transportation to court, and grief counseling.”

Those within the Baltimore area looking to learn more about these efforts can visit TogetherWeAreStronger.com, and also anyone with tips on ongoing investigations or to report criminal activity in Baltimore can call 1-877-SAO-4TIP.

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Speaking of people not cooperating with police and coming forward, it has been seven months since 4-year-old Nathaniel Mesiah Roby-Townsend was killed in Detroit, Michigan. 

And people are reportedly scared to come forward for fear of being labeled a “snitch”. 

Here’s that previous report. 

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DETROIT, MI.- On May 21, a 4-year-old boy was shot and killed on the west side of Detroit when someone fired shots into a house, striking the child. The boy was taken to the hospital, where he succumbed to his wounds.

The boy was identified by family members as Nathaniel Mesiah Roby-Townsend. On the same night, a 3-year-old girl was shot in front of her mother and 12-year old brother.

“What I’m describing in both instances is cowards—cowards who can’t settle disputes without a gun,” Detroit Police Chief James Craig said at the time, according to Fox 2 Detroit.  

The two shootings happen just two hours apart.

“They killed my grand baby,” said Pansey Glaster, grandmother of Nathaniel.

The little boy was visiting her home and was eating a snack, walking from the kitchen to the living room.

“Next thing we know we heard shots (someone) shot him and killed him,” Glaster said.

The child was hit twice; police have said they have a person of interest in that case, who is currently hospitalized. Chief Craig said he understood the desire to retaliate, but asked people not to.

“Don’t do it, because we’ll find you as well.”

“There has been some  light conversation from the street,” Craig said. “There are some who know who did the shooting and they’re going to retaliate.”

 In the other incident, Ry’liee Bailee, who had just turned three was in a care with her mother and her brother, and she was sitting in her car seat. They were picking up the child’s uncle at a home around 10 p.m. when a fight broke out in the middle of the street. The 12-year-old alerted his mother that he saw a gun.

“They were just sitting outside waiting for him to come out,” said Kaneisha Brown, Ry’liee’s aunt. “Next thing you know, shots fired.”

The child was shot in the stomach, with the bullet puncturing her liver. She underwent surgery and is recovering from her wounds. As in the first case, Detroit police had a suspect as well, a man named Brandon Johnson.

The Detroit News  reported that police had information on the suspects.

“The suspects opened fire on this mother with two children, for what reason, we absolutely don’t know,” the chief said. “The good news is we know that the suspects are described as three male blacks, possibly in a Chevy Equinox who are between the ages of 20 and 25 years old.”

“Detroit Police Department is committed to solving these two cases,” Craig said. “It’s tragic. Once again, another cowardly act.”

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“We know who you are,” Craig said. “Brandon Johnson, we need you to turn yourself in”

Nathaniel’s family is coming forward after the leads about a possible suspect in his murder have apparently gone cold. Now the family is pleading for help in the case.

Marlisha Roby had trouble getting words out as she spoke about her 4-year-old son, needlessly taken away by selfish losers with a gun.

“I just want to say. I want justice for my son. He was only 4 years old. He didn’t deserve none of this. He was too jolly; he didn’t get a chance to live his life.”

“Please, is there anybody out there who knows anything?” said Roby.

“Y’all don’t know what it feels like to see a 4-year old boy with a hole in his chest the size of a bottle cap?” said Nathaniel’s father, Nathaniel Townsend.

“He didn’t even make it to kindergarten. He just started school in September. The only thing he liked doing was dance, be with his family, play outside. Whoever did this, y’all some cowards. “Y’all some cowards. I hope you rot in hell. Your whole family. I hope I be there to spit on your grave, and I know that’s harsh, but I hope that, said Roby.

Crime Stoppers has authorized a reward in the case of $2,500. Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-SPEAK-UP.


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