An Ohio man who went on Facebook to post an angry message about his soon-to-be ex-wife was deemed to have broken a court order and as a result was recently hauled before a Cincinnati judge.
By way of punishment, Mark Byron was offered a straight choice by the court. He could either spend 60 days in jail, or apologize to his wife on his Facebook page. The apology would have to stay on his page for 30 days, judge Paul Meyers said. He chose the latter.
Earlier, in June 2011, Byron had been found guilty of civil domestic violence against his estranged wife, Elizabeth. As a result, a temporary protection order against Mr. Byron was issued by the court.
Byron’s bitter message, posted on Facebook in November, read: “If you are an evil, vindictive woman who wants to ruin your husband’s life and take your son’s father away from him completely — all you need to do is say you’re scared of your husband or domestic partner and they’ll take him away!”
He had apparently blocked his wife from seeing the rant, but she heard about it from others, causing her to complain that it violated the court protection order. Court papers described the message as “mentally abusive, harassing and annoying” and called Byron in.
Byron’s apology, posted earlier this month, is directed not only towards his wife, but also his Facebook friends. “I hereby apologize to Elizabeth for casting her in an unfavorable light by suggesting that she withheld (my son) from me,” it reads, adding, “I further apologize to all my Facebook friends for attempting to mislead them into thinking that Elizabeth was in any manner preventing me from spending time with (my son), which caused several of my Facebook Friends to respond with angry, venomous, and inflammatory comments of their own.” The apology must remain on his Facebook page until the middle of March.
In a recent interview with a local news show, Byron explained his actions. “I just went on Facebook to vent,” he said. “I kind of likened it to having a drink with a friend at a bar and telling them about things.”
The court didn’t see it in such matter-of-fact terms and judged that Byron had broken the protection order, before offering him a choice of punishment. If you’d been in Byron’s shoes, would you have objected to being told by a court to post an apology on your Facebook page and instead happily gone to the slammer for 60 days? Or do you think the judge happens to be someone who has clearly embraced the Internet age and should be commended for his ‘jail or Facebook apology’ offer?