Common Sense: Fake news

Did you hear about Staten Island attorney Richard Luthmann? He is the attorney who NY1 News proved was behind the creation of a number of fake Facebook accounts designed to embarrass and/or politically damaged several public officials and candidates.

The accounts would pretend to be actual accounts of the individuals. Luthmann would post to these accounts completely fabricated information that appeared to be very real. The information was embarrassing, often politically damaging and always untrue.

Luthmann, in his defense, claimed it was his First Amendment right of free speech. They were public figures, he argues. The elected official officials and candidates including District Attorney Michael McMahon are not seeing it that way.

The district attorney has turned the investigation over to a special prosecutor. There is talk of identity theft charges. Councilmember Debi Rose, candidate Janine Matera and Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis were also victims of fake pages.
I assume Luthmann has had charges filed against him with the bar association and is facing suspension or even disbarment. Such would be automatic with any criminal conviction.

Short of that, the bar association can act against a member if he or she is shown to be engaged in unethical activities. I would hope the bar association considers creating fake Facebook accounts in the names of unsuspecting individuals an unethical activity for an attorney.

A very important precedent could be set with this investigation and possible prosecution. The purveyors of fake Facebook accounts are rarely subjected to any penalties besides being removed from Facebook.

If the Facebook account is masquerading as someone, it is identity theft. It should subject the creator of the account to charges under the existing identity theft criminal and civil statutes.

I cannot imagine why anyone would hire Luthmann as his or her attorney. I do think if he should lose his ability to practice law, he will have no problem getting work in the entertainment industry.

Luthmann, who advertises his practice appearing as knight in armor, once asked a judge to settle a case through trial by combat. Luthmann would be perfect for one of the Medieval Times dinner theater playhouses you find in and around Florida.


Sixteen years ago, in the shadows of 9/11, a prayer card made the rounds that said the following: “Remember the Heroes: Our hearts are heavy with sorrow for the loss of so many innocent lives due to the tragic events of September 11, 2001.

“We will never forget the supreme dedication of our fire, police and emergency services professionals. Their courageous efforts saved countless lives. Heroes all, many made the ultimate sacrifice.

“We salute the efforts of our volunteers who selflessly gave their time and energy during the most harrowing hours our city has ever faced.

“Our spirit remains unbroken. Our strength renewed. United we will rebuild and move forward.”

Sixteen years later we have rebuilt and moved forward, but lives are still taken each year by 9/11-related illnesses. Let Us Never Forget!

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