N.Y. law outlines specific offenses for unlawful sharing of personal images

“Caroline’s Law” was first introduced after an EMT posted a murder victim’s photo to Facebook in 2009


The original reporting identified the offenses as a felony. This article has been updated to identify the offenses as misdemeanors. 

Kristin F. Dalton
Staten Island Advance

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Martha and Ronald Wimmer wanted to make sure what happened following their daughter's death won't happen again.

After the Wimmer's daughter, Caroline Wimmer, 27, was found strangled in her West Brighton home in 2009, photos of her body were posted to Facebook by an EMT who responded to the scene of the crime.

Caroline Wimmer, 27, was found strangled in her West Brighton home in 2009. A photo of her body was posted to Facebook by an EMT who responded to the scene of the crime.
Caroline Wimmer, 27, was found strangled in her West Brighton home in 2009. A photo of her body was posted to Facebook by an EMT who responded to the scene of the crime.

The EMT ultimately pled guilty to disorderly conduct.

The family has since been fighting, along with Sen. Diane Savino (D-North Shore), to make it a felony for cops, firefighters, and EMTs to post victim photos on the internet — and that fight concluded more than a decade later.

Dubbed "Caroline's Law," the recently passed legislation amends the penal code to create specific offenses related to the unlawful dissemination of a personal image and creates a private right of action for such offenses.

According to the legislation, a person is guilty of unlawful dissemination of a personal image:

  • In the first degree when he or she commits the offense of unlawful dissemination of a personal image;
  • In the second degree if also committed, participated in the commission of or conspired to commit the crime that resulted in injury to the victim;
  • Or the victim suffered serious physical injury or death, which is depicted in the unlawfully disseminated image.

Unlawful dissemination in the second degree is a class B misdemeanor; unlawful dissemination in the first degree is a class A misdemeanor and punishable by a year in jail.

Savino sponsored the bill in the Senate and Assemblywoman Marianne Buttenschon (D- New York) sponsored the bill in the Assembly where it passed unanimously.

SENTENCING OF KILLER, EMT

Wimmer's body was found dead on the floor of her trashed Greenleaf Avenue apartment, beaten nearly beyond recognition, and apparently strangled with an electrical cord, police and her family said.

While Lawson's sentencing may have been a minor relief to the Wimmer family, they were left dealing with the aftermath of an unthinkable action from a first responder who dealt with the death of their daughter.

Mark Musarella, 46, a retired police officer and then-EMT for Richmond University Medical Center, took a picture of Wimmer's dead body after he responded to the scene in 2009 and posted it on his personal Facebook page.

Musarella was charged with a misdemeanor for misconduct, but pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct — a plea that required him to perform 200 hours of community service and surrender his EMT license.

CIVIL LAWSUIT

The Wimmers also brought a civil suit against Greenleaf Arms, the West Brighton complex where Ms. Wimmer was slain; Calvin Lawson, the man convicted of her murder; Mark Musarella, the EMT; Richmond University Medical Center; the City of New York; Fire Department Commissioner Salvatore J. Cassano and Facebook.

While the law prohibited the Wimmers from suing Facebook for money, the couple is suing to force the social networking giant to turn over the photos in question and identify the users who saw and download the photos.

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(c)2022 Staten Island Advance, N.Y.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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