MOUNDSVILLE - Alleged social media harassment has taken a role in a felony case charging Robert Edward Mike Jr., 21, of Gainesville, Fla., for sending sexually graphic images to a 16-year-old Moundsville girl.
A Facebook page titled "Free Robert Mike Jr." - the author of which identifies herself as Mike's mother - claims Mike is innocent and says the alleged victim turned in pornographic photos of Mike to Moundsville police to "get back at him." The page also directly identifies the girl by posting her name and picture.
The page displayed 270 "likes" of support as of Friday.
Photo by Sarah Harmon
Robert Edward Mike Jr. listens during a preliminary hearing Friday on charges of Mike sending pornographic images of himself to an underage girl in Moundsville.
Assistant prosecutor Joseph Canestraro said McGinnis will likely not face charges of harassment unless threats are made against the victim. However, Amy Halicky, victims service coordinator, said social media harassment has become a huge part of many cases and has grown worse in the past few years.
"A lot of victims won't follow through on charges, because they are scared of what will happen to them," Halicky said. "The prosecutor's office does not dismiss intimidation and it happens a lot."
Marshall County Prosecutor Jeff Cramer said social media has had a dramatic effect on "victim blaming" and also said he has seen an increase in retaliation against a victim through these outlets.
"It's easy for people to sit behind a computer in the comfort of their home and use social media to advance their agenda," Cramer said. "Others latch on and join in, even when it's clear they don't have or know all the facts of a case. We are seeing this type of activity more often, although not as blatant as this case. We've had victims contacted via social media by defendants or others on their behalf, but we've not had a page dedicated to what, in my opinion, is harassment of a victim."
Cramer said a group of people harassing a victim can be devastating to the prosecution of a case, but is more harmful to the victims themselves.
"We try hard to stand with the victims and support them in every way possible," Cramer said. "Persons found intimidating or retaliating against a victim or witness can absolutely face charges. These issues are currently being investigated and are crimes we will not tolerate."
Mike's case was bound over to circuit court after Magistrate Judge Mark A. Kerwood determined there was probable cause during a preliminary hearing Friday.
According to a criminal complaint against Mike, the alleged victim informed Moundsville police that Mike had sent several pornographic images of himself to her phone Dec. 15. The girl reportedly said Mike also asked her to send him an explicit video of herself.
The report states the girl had a relationship with Mike for almost two years prior to the incident and told police Mike is the father of her child, although his name was not on the child's birth certificate.
Officers reportedly were able to find a graphic photo showing Mike's face. Officers also identified the sender's phone number as belonging to a Verizon customer in Florida.