YouTube Pranks: A Legal Remedy?
You could probably name at least one prank that you’ve seen on YouTube that was filmed specifically to get attention on the video sharing site. In the last year or so, it seems that some of these pranks have gone from mostly harmless hijinks to blatant violence and criminal activity. Who hasn’t seen clips from the beating of a cheerleader by eight of her classmates on the evening news?
USA Today reports that one judge in Florida had a case in this vein before him recently and included a very interesting sentence—one that hopefully has these same “pranksters” thoroughly chagrined. Also interesting in the case was just how the boys were caught.
The original prank and YouTube video was of a car of teens in a drive thru. After receiving the drinks they ordered and paying, the cashier returned to the window with their change. The boys yelled “Fire in the hole!” and threw a drink into the drive thru window.
Like most pranks, this is only funny if you’re a teenage boy (and even then, this doesn’t exactly rank up there with the great pranks of all time). Apparently the boys conceived of the prank for the purpose of creating a hilarious YouTube video (and apparently this was the best they could do).
The cashier at the window, 23-year-old Jessica Ceponis, later had other customers inform her of the reason for the prank—YouTube stardom. Jessica made the Internet her ally, tracking down the video of the prank on YouTube and tracing back to the boys’ MySpace accounts. There, she friended them (and obviously they didn’t know who she was) and confirmed that they were behind the attack. The final step was some old-fashioned detective work—looking them up in the phonebook and calling their mothers.
The driver, 16, and the cameraman, 15, were charged with two counts of battery and one count of criminal mischief. It sounds as though they worked out what we call ’round these parts a “plea in abeyance”—an agreement to enter a guilty plea now, but not have it recorded, then fulfill the other conditions of the sentencing to have the charges removed from your record.
The conditions of their sentencing include community service, a fine paid to the restaurant, letters of apology and (this is the good part) writing, editing, creating and uploading a video of apology to YouTube, featuring the image of face down as if handcuffed on the hood of a car.
There’s one judge that knows how to hit ’em where it hurts. On the other hand, it makes you wish that the more serious and violent pranks posted for fame on YouTube carried the same sentence.