February 4, 2013: District Attorney Seth Williams sent a letter to Facebook CEO and Founder Mark Zuckerberg today asking him to remove potentially life threatening postings from a convicted felon’s Facebook page. The postings on Freddie Henriquez’s page labeled a witness a “rat” and a “snitch” and even advocate to “kill rats.” Despite numerous requests from the District Attorney’s Office to remove the postings the company has refused. “Witness intimidation has reached epidemic proportions in Philadelphia,” said District Attorney Seth Williams. “By ignoring our repeated requests and continuing to allow these images on their website, Facebook is contributing to the culture of intimidation and fear that exist in this city.”
Since Mr. Williams took office in January of 2010, 1,041 witness intimidation cases have been prosecuted by the DAO, and that is just for the sole charge of witness intimation. That does not include homicide or assault charges, which sadly go hand and hand with witness intimidation charges.
In February of 2012, a young woman was arrested as part of a conspiracy to “straw purchase” firearms for a group of drug dealers. A straw purchaser is someone who agrees to buy a gun for someone who can not procure a firearm legally because of his/her criminal record. After her arrest, this young woman gave a statement to police admitting her involvement and agreed to testify against the drug dealers. These drug dealers labeled her a “rat” and a “snitch.” One of those drug dealers gave a copy of that young woman’s statement to a man named Freddie Henriquez. On November 9, 2012, Henriquez decided to post all eight pages of that statement on his Facebook page and also labeled her a “rat.” Elsewhere on his page, he also had numerous postings saying “kill rats.” Henriquez’s obvious intent was to intimidate this young woman into not testifying in this case. Had Henriquez put these same threats on telephone poles or on street corners, people from her immediate neighborhood would have known that she cooperated with the police. But Henriquez’s actions are far worse. He posted the statement for the entire world to see, potentially placing this witness in grave danger from anyone who has an ax to grind with those who cooperate with the authorities in a criminal case.
Despite numerous requests from the District Attorney’s Office to have Facebook remove these offending images, the company has refused. On January 8 and January 15, 2013, we received form e-mails from Facebook’s Law Enforcement Response Team stating that the images have been reviewed and are not in violation of their policies. This office even requested a verbal explanation over the phone and was refused. These actions are perplexing given the fact that the images clearly do violate two of the items in Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities:
6. You will not bully, intimidate, or harass any user…
10. You will not use Facebook to do anything unlawful, misleading, or discriminatory.
The posting of the witness’s statement and reference to “rats” and “kill rats” are clearly intended to intimidate and harass her. These postings were the basis for the arrest of Henriquez for witness intimidation, and thus clearly unlawful. Despite that fact, Facebook’s Law Enforcement Team still refuses to take down the postings, and because of their refusal to take action, the intimidation and threat to this witness’s life continues.