After breaking up with her boyfriend, Dana Thornton, a 41-year-old New Jersey resident, allegedly created a fake profile of him on Facebook.
The page included statements that the ex, police detective Michael Lasalandra, was "high all the time," visited prostitutes and was "a sick piece of scum with a gun."
Unflattering, sure. But it seems extremely unlikely that anyone who stumbled across this profile could have believed that Lasalandra -- a police detective -- himself authored the posts.
Nonetheless, the authorities charged Thornton with false impersonation -- defined in New Jersey as assuming a false identity in order to injure or defraud someone else. The crime carries a maximum of 18 months imprisonment.
This week, a judge in Morris County ruled that the case could go forward. That decision seems questionable, given the context. Even if Thornton did indeed create the profile, doing so didn't defraud anyone. There's a big difference between using someone's name to lampoon them and to commit identity theft -- which is what the New Jersey false identity law aims to address.
If Lasalandra wanted to sue for defamation, he might have been able to bring a credible case -- though it's not clear how the matter would have played out. Even so, defamation isn't a crime -- not in New Jersey, anyway.
If the authorities in New Jersey want to criminalize libel and slander, they should lobby for new laws -- and not by bringing trumped up cases such as this one.