Facebook alibi gets teen out of jail

November 12, 2009 9:40:55 AM PST
At the time the armed robbery in Brooklyn happened, Rodney Bradford was 13 miles away at his father's apartment in Harlem. Lucky for Rodney, he was also on Facebook. Little did he know that updating his status would help get him out of jail.

If he hadn't, Bradford, 19, might probably still be locked in a cell at Rikers Island.

"Thank you Facebook. That's all I can say. Thank you Facebook," Bradford said.

Last month, Rodney was arrested for armed robbery after the victim picked him out of a line-up.

"I was on Rikers for 12 days and I thought I was going to be there for a long time for no reason," he said.

The armed robbery happened outside the Farragut Houses in Brooklyn on October 18th. At that exact same time, Rodney was updating his Facebook status on a computer at his dad's apartment in Harlem. That critical piece of evidence, time and date-stamped on Rodney's page, proved crucial to establishing his alibi and getting the charges dropped.

"Usually the wheels of justice grind slowly, but in this case it took 12 days," attorney Robert Reuland said.

Rodney's case is believed to be the first in which defense lawyers have used Facebook to establish a person's innocence. Some skeptics point out that this defense is not totally reliable, since someone could, in theory, log onto someone else's Facebook page if they knew their password.

"As much as it's interesting how tech comes to the aid of various offenders, practically speaking there's no validity to this defense," professor Maki Haberfeld of John Jay College said.

In Rodney's case, a whole houseful of people in Harlem could establish his alibi. The Facebook status update just backed them up. He was also instant messaging at the time.