What You Post Could Let The Guy Walk E-mail
Written by Mark Nichols   

The Internet is both a blessing and a minefield for law enforcement professionals. The advantages are mostly in areas like recruitment, and in solving local crimes committed by individuals stupid enough to broadcast the very evidence that will eventually be used against them on sites like Myspace and Facebook. The minefield part for law enforcement occurs when officers get so anxious to share photos or video of a big drug bust that they  forget the fact that posting such content will make it impossible to get a conviction. In Lee County, North Carolina, charges have been dropped in the biggest drug bust in the county’s history after video of the crime scene appeared on the Internet.

The now useless drug bust (in terms of convictions) was part of a joint investigation by federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation. Authorities say marijuana was tracked from Mexico to Lee County, where officials said they caught Auturo Elizalde, 27, and Thomas Ayala, 32, with 1,900 pounds of the drug. An officer with the Sanford Police Department videotaped the bust, and somehow his video turned up on YouTube.

The video has been removed from the site, and the officer is no longer with the department. Investigators, prosecutors and defense attorneys claimed they didn’t even know the video existed. "It's my understanding that there were two Sanford police officers who came to the scene and did record part of the crime scene,' Lee County Sheriff Tracy Carter told local reporters. Carter said he does not know what the officers were doing there. Federal and state agents were on the scene and according to the Sheriff, local police were never even called. "I'm upset that this happened," Carter added. Elizalde and Ayala were arrested during the bust, but after the defense argued that the video should have been submitted into evidence, all charges but one were dismissed against the two suspects. Both men were sentenced to probation and immediately released based on time already served.


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