PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — For now, there will be no charges filed in the case of an online profile on Facebook that appears to be masquerading as a Rhode Island state representative, but in fact mocks him — and appears to be the responsibility of a fellow lawmaker who’s in the opposite party.
State Rep. Scott Guthrie, a Democrat, told Coventry Police back in December he wanted to press charges after a fraudulent Facebook profile was created in his name. The profile featured a caricature of Guthrie, portraying him as an octopus and read “Picking your pocket to feed his union buddies” the caricature read.
Police served subpoenas to Facebook, and Verizon Online Services, to find out who was accessing the fake profile. The answer appeared to be Republican Senator Nicholas Kettle, along with computers registered to the Rhode Island General Assembly.
Indeed, Kettle has admitted responsibility. Kettle told the Providence Journal the satirical profile was an attempt to point out how Guthrie was the sponsor of legislation giving taxing powers to the Central Coventry Fire District.
But an assistant Rhode Island Attorney General said it doesn’t constitute “cyber-harrassment,” and isn’t illegal.
Kevin Harris, the lead detective on the case, wrote in a police report that posts on the profile that would not be protected by Constitutional rights “would not have caused substantial emotional distress,” another required element to term it a cyber-harrassment crime. Therefore, Det. Harris told Rep. Guthrie what the AG’s office said: there was insufficient evidence to prosecute.
But as the Journal reported, Attorney General Peter Kilmartin will still review the case.
The Communications Director of the House Minority Office, Chuck Newton, was fired for helping Kettle construct the online profile.