Does New Jersey’s law against identity theft extend to the internet?

A Superior Court Judge in Moris County said it does, ruling that a Belleville woman accused of impersonating her boyfriend by creating a fake facebook page and posting inflammatory comments can be prosecuted.

41 year-old Dana Thorton told reporters to “dig for the truth”, leaving a courtroom in Morristown after a judge refused to dismiss an indictment charging her with identity theft, a fourth degree crime punishable by up to 18 months in prison.

Morris County prosecutors said she created the page using photos and personal information about her ex boyfriend, a Parisippany police detective.

“She altered photos of them on vacation, and posted remarks about him getting high and hiring prostitutes all in the name of harming his reputation as an officer” said Assistant Prosecutor Robert Schwartz.

According to grand jury testimony recited in court Wednesday, among the comments posted on the page were that the ex-boyfriend, a narcotics detective, was “high all the time,” had herpes andfrequented prostitutes and escort services. “I’m a sick piece of scum with a gun,” Thornton allegedly wrote.

Thorton’s Attorney Richard Roberts argued that the law in the state, as it exists now, does not apply to electronic means and the indictment should be dismissed, although the state Senate has a bill to amend that. “In amending that statute to include online sites the legislators obviously felt there was a shortcoming in the initial statute.”

So far, only California and New York have laws specifically banning online identity theft.

“How do you quantify the harm?” Roberts asked. “There was no money involved. We live in the real world where words are thrown around all the time. How does that rise to the level of what is in this statute?”

State Superior Court Judge David Ironson disagreed and said the law was “clear and unambiguous.”

“The fact that the means of committing the crime are not set forth in the statute doesn’t lead to the conclusion that the defendant didn’t commit the crime,” he said.

Thornton is due in court for a pretrial conference on Dec. 7th.