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Facebook images not proof of probation violation, judge rules

July 05, 2011|By DON AINES | dona@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN — Facebook images of Robbie Eugene Liggett standing near a bottle of rum were insufficient to find him in violation of probation for his conviction for homicide by vehicle while driving under the influence, a Washington County Circuit Court Judge ruled Tuesday.

In 2009, a jury found Liggett, 38, of Hagerstown, guilty in the April 26, 2008, death of Roy James Gordon, court records show. Gordon died when his vehicle was hit from behind by Liggett’s on Interstate 70 west of Big Pool.

Liggett was sentenced to two years in prison and two years on probation, conditions of which included no consumption of alcohol, Deputy State’s Attorney Steven C. Kessell told Circuit Judge Donald E. Beachley.

Kessell said after the hearing that the State’s Attorney’s Office learned from “a concerned individual” about Facebook photos indicating a possible violation by Liggett.

One photo introduced at the hearing showed Liggett in a motel room with a nearly full bottle of rum on a table next to him. The second showed Liggett again in the room, but with no rum visible in the bottle.

The only witness called by the state during Tuesday’s hearing was the person who took the photos and posted them on her Facebook page — Liggett’s sister, Tammy Liggett Gladhill.

Gladhill testified that she, a friend and her brother went to Columbia, Md., on May 13, to attend a concert, and returned the following Sunday. She testified the first picture was taken Friday, with the second taken before they left.

“Yes, I drank a lot of it,” Gladhill testified when Kessell asked if she noticed a difference in the rum bottle from one picture to the next. She testified her brother consumed no alcohol that weekend.

“There’s no evidence of any alcohol consumption by my client and there’s evidence to the contrary from the state’s own witness,” Liggett’s attorney D. Benson Thompson III told Beachley.

“His hand is in the potato chip bag and not on the bottle,” Beachley said, looking at one photo.

While not called to the stand, a parole and probation officer told Beachley that Liggett had shown up for all of his appointments, and always tested clean for drugs and alcohol.

“He put himself in a very difficult position,” Beachley said. While he could not find evidence that Liggett violated probation, he said, “I don’t blame the state one bit for prosecuting this case.”

“There’s a thing called decorum and respect” for the dead, Kessell told Beachley, saying Gordon’s family could have been exposed to the photos.

Gordon’s father was in the courtroom for the hearing, Kessell said afterward.

“In the new age of Facebooking, as a verb ... be careful,” Beachley advised Liggett.

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