, Newburyport, MA

October 15, 2013

Police: Facebook bails out arrested partygoer


---- — BEVERLY — The party was announced on Facebook, and by the time it was over, five people were arrested, with at least one taking the unprecedented step of pleading with friends for bail — via Facebook, police say.

Thus, David White, 19, becomes one of the first people known locally to use social media to get out of jail.

Police described a raucous Saturday night gathering of 100 to 150 people, most under 21, at a Juniper Valley Court address in Beverly Farms. Beverly spokesman Mike Boccuzzi said “numerous bottles of liquor and cans of beer” and an “uncooperative crowd” forced officers to call for backup from state police, Wenham and Manchester police.

Arrested was the homeowner, Ronnie Alford, 42, with wife Kimberly Alford, 43, to be summonsed, both under the “social host” law, with Ronnie Alford also held over accusations of having a noisy and disorderly house and procuring alcohol for minors. Also charged were Briana Doody, 20, Manchester, drunken driving; Shawn Sequeira, 18, Lowell Street, Beverly, as a minor with alcohol; and David White, 19, Lyman Street, Beverly, disturbing the peace. Also arrested was a 17-year juvenile on charges of disorderly conduct and having alcohol.

It was White who asked police for permission to use Facebook to plead for help in getting bail after his phone calls yielded no response, police said.

“We have to grant one phone call,” detective Lt. Timothy Hegarty said.

That’s a problem right off for some young people, who no longer remember phone numbers, which are often stored electronically, he said. “They just look it up,” he said.

When in police custody, if they don’t have access to the number they want, it’s often the case that they must call a third party just to find out what it is. Sometimes, the person called doesn’t answer, he said.

“If they call mom and they can’t get her, we’re not going to say you can’t have another call. Not as long as they’re respectful and cooperative,” Hegarty said.

In any case, White ran out of numbers to call and asked if he could use his cellphone to put an alert on Facebook. That has never happened before, said Hegarty, who added, “A lot of people don’t want to put it on Facebook that they’ve been arrested.” Prisoners like White can be given access to their cellphone, but police monitor the use, he added.

White used his phone to put a note on his Facebook page on the chance one of his friends would read it. Hegarty supposed that most young people are habitually cruising such sites, and it was inevitable that the electronic Mayday would be seen. In any case, a friend soon arrived with $40, the fee required — technically it’s not bail — before he could be released on his own personal recognizance.

Meanwhile, Beverly police have left a message on their own Facebook page explaining why White had been given the privilege of being the first known arrestee to seek release via social media,

“We allowed it; it worked. We are only required to allow one phone call, but when people are cooperative with us, we work with them, and that was the case here. Another good reason to own a smartphone.”

Hegarty said that the party was initially advertised on Facebook, and those attending were generally “verbally resistant, uncooperative.” At first, they would not open the door to officers, and then, after a single officer entered, they attempted to keep out the rest by closing the door behind him. Officers had responded after several phone calls from people complaining about the noise. Boccuzzi said that eventually, “the party was broken up and peace restored.”

Participating in the arrests were Beverly patrolmen Justin Zwicker, John McCarthy, David Grimes, Shawn Desmond and Sgt. Lawrence Van Liere, as well as Wenham Sgt. Mike Mscisz, Manchester officer Howie Lewis and state Troopers Richard Bernard and Patrick Devin.