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Libri v. State

Court of Appeals of Georgia, First Division

June 20, 2018

LIBRI
v.
THE STATE.

          BARNES, P. J., MCMILLIAN and REESE, JJ.

          Reese, Judge.

         A Douglas County jury found Paul Michael Libri guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of two felony counts of impersonating a peace officer, [1] one felony count of identity fraud, [2] and one misdemeanor count of obstructing a law enforcement officer.[3]He was sentenced to a total of twenty years, with the first five years in confinement and the remainder on probation. Following the denial of his motion for new trial, he files this appeal, arguing there was insufficient evidence to support his convictions. For the reasons set forth infra, we affirm.

         In an appeal following a criminal conviction, we view the evidence in the light most favorable to the jury's verdict.[4] So viewed, the evidence shows that, on May 12, 2014, 17-year-old N. C. did not return home from school. According to N. C.'s friends, N. C. left school at around 10:00 a.m. that morning. N. C.'s mother testified that she argued with her daughter the previous night and took away N. C.'s cell phone. After calling friends and family without finding N. C., N. C.'s mother contacted the Douglas County Sheriff's Office ("DCSO") and reported her daughter missing. Investigator Jones from the DCSO was assigned to the investigation.

         On May 13, N. C.'s mother was contacted on her cell phone by "Tim Taylor, " who was later identified as the Appellant.[5] N. C.'s mother testified that the Appellant told her he obtained her phone number from a friend of her daughter through "Facebook or Instagram." N. C.'s mother denied giving her daughter's friend permission to give out her phone number.

         During the first of four or five phone conversations, the Appellant told N. C.'s mother that he was an investigator with the Metro Atlanta Metro Human Trafficking Task Force, and, based on his title and the name of the organization, she thought that the Appellant was part of "law enforcement" and a "top-notch investigator." He told her that he used to be a police officer in Atlanta and had resources that "a regular Police Department or a Sheriff's Department" might not have. The Appellant told her that he would find N. C. and that he "ha[d] found many [other missing children]." He also told N. C.'s mother that her daughter could be at risk for human trafficking.

         At the Appellant's request, N. C.'s mother provided him with her and N. C.'s personal information, including their full names, birth dates, social security numbers, e-mail addresses, passwords, and social media accounts. She also gave him a description of N. C., including "[e]verything about her appearance[, ]" pictures of her daughter, N. C.'s interests and activities, and provided the names of her friends. N. C.'s mother testified that she was desperate to find her daughter and thought the Appellant would find her because he asked for information that the DCSO had not requested. The Appellant posted N. C.'s picture on her Facebook page with the words: "She's missing. Help us find her, " and he changed her Facebook account password. According to N. C.'s mother, the Appellant did not ask for money in exchange for his assistance.

         Investigator Jones with the DCSO also contacted N. C.'s mother on May 13, 2014, and obtained information about N. C.'s social media accounts. During his investigation that day, Investigator Jones was able to log into a Facebook account registered to N. C. On May 15, 2014, however, he was unable to log directly into N. C.'s Facebook account or access her Facebook page. When he accessed N. C.'s page through the Facebook page of one of her friends, he found that N. C.'s page "had been completely changed." There were "flyers or wanted posters" posted on it along with N. C.'s picture and the Metro Atlanta Human Trafficking Task Force "logo." Investigator Jones "was highly annoyed[, and] knew somebody had accessed [N. C.'s account] and done . . . everything [he] would never do." He explained that kids "communicate via social network" and, because someone had changed N. C.'s password, she "was locked out of her . . . main avenue of communicating with all of her friends [and p]ossibly family."

         According to Investigator Jones, his office used social media to assist in locating runaway juveniles, and he monitored missing children's Facebook accounts as part of the investigations. He never altered missing children's Facebook accounts because children knew "[what was] on their page[s], and if [he were] to alter anything, they would know somebody's been there, red flags go up, . . . [and the missing children] will quit using it." Investigator Jones testified that, by posting something on social media, such as a "wanted poster, " there was a risk that the children would "disappear." He also testified that he generally did not share detailed information as to the status of the search for a missing child with family members or friends because that information could get back to the missing juvenile and cause him to lose track of the child.

         After being locked out of N. C.'s Facebook account, Investigator Jones, with the assistance of DCSO Investigator Wright, found another Facebook account with N. C.'s picture on the page. He testified that he believed that N. C. was not "physically in danger" but was a runaway in the presence of a caring family member. He further testified that the second Facebook account hindered his ability to look for N. C. and he lost track of her for "about four to six hours." He started looking for N. C. in a "completely" different direction which did not lead to her being found and "wasted three investigators [twelve] hours focusing on one complete area that [he thought] was the best lead."[6] But, when that lead failed to locate N. C., Investigator Jones had to go "back to square one" and start over.

         On the evening of May 14, the Appellant called DCSO Sergeant Hambrick and identified himself as "Tim Taylor, " an "agent" who wanted to discuss N. C., a runaway juvenile. The Appellant stated that the "Metro Atlanta Human Trafficking Task Force" was working on the case, wanted to help, had "accessed her account, " and could "track her phone." Sergeant Hambrick gave the Appellant his e-mail address because he did not know the Appellant and was unable to speak with him at the time. The Appellant e-mailed Sergeant Hambrick the next day, using "very common[ ] police terminology." Sergeant Hambrick testified that the Appellant never identified himself as a volunteer of a non-profit organization, nor did he ever tell Sergeant Hambrick that he was not a police officer.

         Sergeant Hambrick testified that, on May 15, 2014, DCSO Investigator Wright found a second Facebook account that was opened around the time that N. C. went missing. Investigator Wright subpoenaed the IP address of the Facebook account and the IP address "came back to the residence that [the Appellant] was utilizing." DCSO sent local police officers to the residence associated with the account to look for N. C. The Appellant lived at the residence and was home when the police arrived.

         When the Appellant answered the door, he told the officers that he was with the Metro Atlanta Human Trafficking Task Force, that he was working on N. C.'s case, and that he had been in contact with DCSO investigators. One of the local police officers testified that he looked around the Appellant's home and asked the Appellant why "the investigators would be getting a hit on the IP address that was associated with this house, through [N. C.'s] Facebook account." The Appellant showed the officer N. C.'s Facebook page, which was open on his laptop. The officer testified that it appeared that the Appellant was working from inside the account, and that the information shown on a Facebook page was "significantly different" when viewing another person's page as a visitor compared to viewing the page after logging into that account. The Appellant called Sergeant Hambrick and asked him to explain the situation to the local police officers. Sergeant Hambrick told the officers, "[the Appellant] doesn't work for our agency. He's not working with us on this case." Sergeant Hambrick testified that he had "numerous conversations and concerns about this case[, ]" and he asked Investigator Wright to ask the Appellant to come into the office for a "face-to-face conversation." After speaking to Investigator Wright, Sergeant Hambrick received a phone call from a "Shawna Hutchison, "[7] with the Metro Atlanta Human Trafficking Task Force apologizing for the Appellant "not being able" to come into the office for "a sitdown talk."

         N. C.'s mother became "frustrated" with the efforts of the DCSO because she thought the law enforcement agency had not made finding N. C. a priority. She changed her mind, however, when she met with several investigators with the DCSO on May 15, and realized they had paperwork and information about N. C.'s Facebook page. At that meeting, the DCSO told her that they knew about the Appellant, that he was not part of law enforcement, and that she should probably not talk to him or give him information.

         N. C.'s mother testified to feeling "scared, " "hurt, " and "mad" after her discussion with the DCSO about the Appellant, because she had given him all of her and N. C.'s personal information and she would not have done so if he had not been a law enforcement officer. She also decided she did not want to have anything else to do with the Appellant.

         Ultimately, N. C. returned home on May 18, 2014. N. C. testified that she never gave the Appellant permission to use any of her personal information, or to alter or lock her out of her Facebook account. According to N. C., her sister saw on N. C.'s Facebook page that the Metro Atlanta Human Trafficking Task Force was looking for her, and N. C. thought the organization was part of the police force. N. C. testified that the Facebook posting caused her to return home because it meant the police and several other people were looking for her. N. C. also testified that she created her first Facebook account when she was ten or eleven years old and created her second Facebook ...


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