Similar to a story we have seen play out in the past two years, a Florida man has been arrested for running an imitation or more like a clone-like Twitter account impersonating Ernesto Rodriguez, a Miami Beach Police Department spokesperson.
The Miami New Times reports that police officers arrested 48-year-old Ernesto Orsetti last Wednesday at his Miami Beach home. Although it has never ended well for authorities, the MBPD Chief Dan Oates has reportedly described Orsetti's behaviour "outrageous". In his words, he said he (Orsetti) would be "held accountable" for "threatening to damage the reputation of our superb Public Information Officer, as well as the Miami Beach Police Department brand".
Ernesto Rodriguez whose reputation was jeopardized and is allegedly at risk of being devastated, had previously mentioned about the account in joking online post on January 19. The post read; "They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Just shows the amount of 'free' time folks have." Rodriguez later wrote of the parody, "Lol, it is generating some great laughs via text!" followed by the hashtag, #WhoCreatesFAKEaccounts.
The Times shared a police report saying, "[Orsetti] falsely created and assumed the identity of the victim (active police officer/police information officer via Twitter." In further explanation, the report points that the account contained photos of a Miami Beach police vehicle as well as a photograph of Rodriguez in uniform.
According to the report, Orsetti through the account communicated with "local media, elected officials, and the community". Although the report does not explain what particularly led to Orsetti's sudden arrest, nor why the department did not simply have the account suspended only.
Meanwhile, Orsetti’s case is not the first of its kind. In 2014, a man in Peoria, Illinois was raided by the city's police after creating a satirical account mocking its mayor. He was awarded $US125,000 ($160,778) in damages after an unsuccessful attempt to bring charges against him during a case in which the defence argued a First Amendment right to satirise government officials.
Similarly, 27-year-old Cleveland man was arrested last year for creating a fake Facebook account he named "The City of Parma Police Department", although after some legal processes, the jury unanimously acquitted him few month later.
The Times report also said, the law under which Orsetti was arrested this week makes it illegal to "impersonate a cop", though it makes no mention of impersonating a cop online — a fact Orsetti's attorney is sure to raise in court.