Teen pop star Justin Bieber will appear in a public service announcement about the importance of cyber responsibility as part of a guilty plea stemming from a November 2009 incident at Roosevelt Field Mall in which his record label and other companies poorly organized a promotional event and his management company refused to help law enforcement safely disperse a crowd of thousands that had shown up to see Bieber at a clothing store appearance, Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice said Friday.
The prosecution is one of the first cases in New York State to hold a defendant, who is outside the county, criminally accountable for conduct on a social media website which has a detrimental effect on people in the county, Rice said.
Bieber’s record label, Island Def Jam Record Music Group (IDJ), and his management company, Remster 3 LLC, pleaded guilty Friday to violating Nassau County fire prevention ordinances.
IDJ also agreed to reimburse Nassau County for almost $8,000 to pay its share of the costs associated with the countywide law enforcement and fire marshal response necessitated by the poor planning and execution of the event.
The cases against James Roppo, an IDJ senior vice president, and Scott Braun (aka Scooter Braun), Bieber’s manager, have been dismissed based on the guilty pleas taken by the companies.
Rice said the public service announcement will be shown in Nassau County middle schools, junior high schools and high schools and she will make it available to other school systems outside Nassau County. While the DA's office has final approval of the content, the PSA will be produced and paid for by IDJ.
“This public service announcement will be a valuable tool for parents, educators and law enforcement efforts to combat cyber-bullying and sexting, while encouraging young people to use the internet responsibly,” said Rice. “Mr. Braun created a dangerous safety situation using Twitter. This is a unique opportunity to use the Internet, social media and Justin Bieber’s star power to help make our communities safer.”
Rice said that on Nov. 20, 2009, Bieber was scheduled to sign autographs at the clothing store, Justice, inside the mall from 4 to 6 p.m. By 1 p.m., more than 3,000 people had gathered in the parking garage staging area. Police received 911 calls during this time to warn of the dangerous situation in the garage and concerns that people would be “trampled.” Police arrived to see a hazardous overcrowding in the garage in which emergency routes were blocked, Rice said.
The Nassau County Police Department and mall security decided that the event should be cancelled for public safety reasons and informed IDJ personnel and the crowd, according to the DA's office. Despite trying to cancel the event, police efforts to disperse the crowd were hindered by a message from Bieber’s Twitter account stating: “On my way to Roosevelt Field Mall in Long Island, NY to sign and meet fans! I’m pumped. See u there.”
At about 2:50 p.m., police then asked that a Tweet from Bieber’s account telling fans that the event was cancelled be sent out. Despite efforts by IDJ personnel to tweet, no IDJ employees were able to send out a Tweet because Braun had changed the account’s password to prevent anyone from cancelling the event, which he hoped would get onto national news, Rice said. Braun’s company finally sent out two Tweets at about 4:30 and 4:33 p.m.
Within 15 minutes of the Tweets being sent out, the crowd dispersed.
“The efforts of Mr. Bieber’s management company, Remster 3 LLC, to finally comply with the request of the Nassau County Police Department ultimately made it possible to safely and quickly disperse a crowd of thousands of young people,” Rice said. “I am aware that both IDJ and Mr. Bieber’s management company have learned from this incident, and since the Roosevelt Field appearance, have successfully implemented carefully executed safety plans at other venues.”
Rice said the case is also significant in that it shows how a social media website can be misused to put people at risk. It holds a defendant criminally responsible for conduct on a social media website regardless of his or her location, she said. In the case against Remster 3 LLC, the charges of which were reviewed and upheld by the court, the defendant, whose location was unknown, was informed of a dangerous crowd situation at the mall in Nassau County but changed the password on Bieber’s Twitter account so that no one with access to the account could help the police disperse the crowd by sending the necessary tweet, according to the DA's office.
The act of blocking the needed assistance to others was criminal, Rice said, adding that it is fitting that a case borne out of cyber irresponsibility should be resolved in sending a message to young people about the importance of cyber responsibility.