ABOUT NEW YORK The Officer Who Posted Too Much on MySpace
By JIM DWYER March 11, 2009
In pictures, Vaughan Ettienne is a champion bodybuilder of surreal musculature. In conversation, he is polite and thoughtful.
And in the looking glass of his computer screen, he becomes a man of fierce, profane views on how to keep law and order. A few weeks ago, he posted a description of his mood on a MySpace account. "Devious," he wrote.
The next day, a man accused of carrying a loaded gun would go on trial in State Supreme Court in Brooklyn - and in large part, the case rested on the credibility of Vaughan Ettienne, bodybuilder, Internet user and arresting officer.
What seemed like a simple gun possession case became an undeclared war over reality: Was Officer Ettienne a diligent cop who found a gun after chasing an ex-convict weaving through traffic on a stolen motorcycle? Or was his story a "devious" facade in keeping with the ruthless character he revealed on social network Web sites?
"You have your Internet persona, and you have what you actually do on the street," Officer Ettienne said on Tuesday. "What you say on the Internet is all bravado talk, like what you say in a locker room."
Except that trash talk in locker rooms almost never winds up preserved on a digital server somewhere, available for subpoena. The man on trial, Gary Waters, claimed that Officer Ettienne and his partner stopped him, beat him and then planted a gun on him to justify breaking three of his ribs.
Suddenly, Officer Ettienne was being held to the words that he wrote in cyberspace.