Sheriff has investigators looking into fake social media messages

August 15, 2012

It’s never a smart idea to impersonate a sheriff – even if it’s just by posting dumb messages on Twitter.

Like most people in his age range, 53-year-old Hood County Sheriff Roger Deeds doesn’t communicate through the relatively new form of social media called Twitter – and said he wouldn’t even know how to get started.

But as of last Friday, Deeds suddenly found his name dragged into the world of the “Twitterati,” absolutely without his consent. A fake Twitter account including vulgar, controversial comments was set up using the name “Sheriff Roger Deeds” with 14 posts, according to Deeds.

The sheriff didn’t see any humor – juvenile or otherwise – in having his name associated with the remarks, which included multiple curse words, tasteless slurs against homosexuals and mentally challenged people, as well as “threats” to go after people for speeding violations.

Not only did Deeds begin an investigation, but Chief Deputy Biff Temple contacted the FBI. Deeds also has enlisted the help of the Texas Rangers in trying to track down the source of the fake messages.

“Our IT director Jackie Solomon got involved,” Deeds said. “We’re still trying to get them to make contact with us. It just takes time. Our IT department was getting ahold of Twitter and they were supposed to get it fixed, but the damage has been done.”

Deeds said the page, which investigators are trying to have blocked, not only was a shock to him – but also didn’t make much sense.

“Nobody’s safe in this world from becoming a victim, including me,” the sheriff said. “Unfortunately, there is no absolute safety net for anybody out there in regard to Internet access.”

Deeds said on Monday that he has also learned that there is a fake Facebook account set up in his name. He has an authentic Facebook page, which his daughter created for him during his recent run for re-election as sheriff.

Deeds said the messages appear to be basically the same ones on both the fake Twitter and Facebook pages.

Some of the obviously phony posts show ordinary messages connected with other public figures from Hood County, such as Granbury Mayor Rickie Pratt and gold-medal-winning Olympic swimmer Dana Vollmer.

Deeds said he has not yet been able to determine what criminal charge may apply, if anyone is arrested and convicted.

The Twitter/Facebook incident involving Deeds’ name occurred just a few weeks after two Hood County juvenile girls, ages 12 and 13, were arrested and charged with a felony count of online impersonation for allegedly creating a fake Facebook page in the name of a classmate, with intent to harm her reputation, according to a previous Sheriff’s Office news release.

Deeds said he wants residents of the county to know he has integrity, and tries to be a good example as a leader.

“To have this happen boggles my mind,” Deeds said. “It’s very upsetting. I would hope any citizen who reads that would know without a doubt in their mind that that’s not me. I want people to know this is not me talking.

“I try every day to do the best I can and set an example, and I will continue to do that.”

The very nature of some of the messages attributed to Deeds might seem to indicate they were not posted by a mature person. One said, “I hate gays at Granbury Middle School,” while another claimed, “Keep speeding down my roads and I will arrest you.”

Deeds said on Monday that he was not aware of any leads in the case so far.

He admitted that the fact he is a public figure means he must have “thicker skin” than ordinary citizens – legally and otherwise.

As sheriff – with far less of an “expectation of privacy” than most other people – Deeds said he isn’t sure if this case can be handled the same way as the juvenile Facebook case. The two suspects in that case have apparently been released to their parents after being charged with a third-degree felony, but privacy issues for juveniles prevent officials from commenting on their status.

“If we will be able to file charges, we will,” Deeds said of his case.

The sheriff noted that his investigators may have to undergo specialty training to deal with cyber crimes in the future.

“We’re going to be looking at this kind of stuff, and be better prepared for the future,” Deeds said. “We know it’s not going to end here.”

Anyone with information on the fake Twitter and Facebook pages represented as being from Deeds can call the Sheriff’s Office at 817-579-3316, or send your tip anonymously to Crime Stoppers. Call either 817-573-TIPS, or go online (hoodcountycrimestoppers.com). Also, you can text your tip information to 274637, and include “Tip129” at the start of the message.

[email protected] | 817-573-7066, ext. 254

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