A Philadelphia teenager allegedly posted secret court documents and photos related to two shootings in January and June 2012 and a 2007 homicide on his Twitter account, thus outing witnesses in the cases. 17-year-old Nasheen K. Anderson’s Twitter feed allegedly used the caption “EXPOSE ALL RATS” underneath one photo. Anderson was arrested last Tuesday and charged with witness intimidation and terroristic threats. On Thursday the District Attorney’s Office stated it would prosecute Anderson as an adult.
District Attorney Seth Williams said:
The actions of this teenager could have lasting repercussions on untold cases here in Philadelphia. Witness intimidation has reached near-epidemic levels, and we are very serious about not only stopping it, but also prosecuting the criminals who are engaging in these despicable actions, to fullest extent of the law. I don’t care how old you are: If you intimidate a witness in this city, I’m going to come after you.
An anonymous Instagram account called rats215 had released information about at least 30 witnesses of violent crime in Philadelphia. Some of the documents Anderson allegedly posted found their way to the Instagram account.
Anderson’s source for the documents has not yet been found; the information was secret grand-jury evidence. Because of the no-snitching culture around Philadelphia, the D.A.’s office enlarged the number of grand jury cases because the witnesses’ privacy is assured and the proceedings are closed to the public.
Anderson has two prior arrests for robbery and theft, but his mother, Hope Anderson, insisted her son was “a good kid” and innocent, and posted the information without any malicious intent. She also asserted that her son could not possibly have anything to do with the Instagram account, saying:
He don’t have nothing to do with that website. I can’t even tell you who posted that stuff. My son can’t even tell you who’s posting that stuff. He’s not a kid that’s bad and running around in the street. He’s not trying to cause harm to nobody. These are . . . children just speaking about their opinion and them not realizing the effect sometimes of what they put on social media.
In 2011, Hope Anderson filed a federal complaint charging Philadelphia police with beating up her son and falsely arresting him for being involved in a shooting in Southwest Philadelphia. Anderson lost big-time; a jury ruled the Andersons had to cough up $2,614.80, and a later appeal was shot down.