Can social media trolls be charged with interfering in Tristyn Bailey murder case?

Aiden Fucci, 14, arrested on murder charge in classmate’s stabbing death

Sherriff Says No Stone Left Unturned In The Tristyn Bailey Case

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – News 6 partner WJXT-TV has received hundreds of messages on social media from people reporting posts from users claiming to have been part of the death of Tristyn Bailey.

The St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office said the 13-year-old was found stabbed to death in the Durbin Crossing neighborhood. Aiden Fucci, 14, a schoolmate of Bailey, has been arrested on a charge of second-degree murder and is being held at a juvenile detention center in Daytona Beach.

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Deputies on Tuesday revealed some of the accounts they said “had nothing to do with this incident,” and WJXT-TV has been reviewing them and others. Some of the posts taunt Bailey’s family and friends. One shows a picture of a bloody knife, which they claim was used in her murder. The posters are using the hashtag #FreeAiden.

Sheriff Rob Hardwick said his detectives have been bombarded with “hundreds and hundreds of leads” about these internet trolls and that they’re investigating every tip.

“We’re trying to figure out is this real, is this legit, is this coming from a person that’s a possible witness?” Hardwick said. “We’re going to find out with every single lead.”

The sheriff said crime analysts have identified several accounts and are closing in on the identity of the posters. Some have been identified already.

Those accounts, which the Sheriff’s Office calls verified troll accounts, are: WD_Conner, WD_Tyler, WD.Jayson, ATK.Jayson, Wd_jayson, ATK.Kris, Ryan.the.finnesser and Carey_the_thuggg420.

A judge on Tuesday ordered a 14-year-old boy accused of killing his 13-year-old classmate in St. Johns County to remain detained for 21 days or until another court order is issued.

Hardwick noted that the evidence points to one person involved in Bailey’s murder: Fucci. However, he said there are witnesses who still need to be questioned and that the case could change.

Florida state statutes show that someone could be charged with interfering with their investigation, whether it’s resisting an officer or providing false information to law enforcement. The latter could lead to a felony.

“Can somebody go and post something stupid on the internet, which is what’s happening here? Yes. The question is whether or not they know what they’re doing is impacting a criminal investigation,” explained attorney Gene Nichols, not affiliated with the case. “And what we have seen and what we know is the Sheriff’s Office has these individuals, they know who they are, and if these individuals continue to keep posting.”

He noted cyberstalking charges are also possible. The felony could mean up to a year behind bars for each charge.

“It is time for the individuals who are out there to stop trolling because the Sheriff’s Office can come get you,” Nichols said. “Your First Amendment right is not absolute, it is not absolute when you are affecting a criminal investigation.”

Instagram has removed several accounts, but the posters continue to make new pages.

About the Author:

Lifetime Jacksonville resident anchors the 8 and 9 a.m. weekday newscasts and is part of the News4Jax I-Team.