Nebraska teenage girl and her mother indicted in abortion-related case after getting Facebook messages

Norfolk Police began investigating Celeste Burgess and her mother, Jessica Burgess, in late April, according to court documents. Got Facebook messages between. A transcript of the conversation supposedly refers to abortion pills and the burning of “evidence.” Case – included in court filings. Police allege there were “burns” after the fetus’ remains were unearthed, suggesting she may have been burned after the pregnancy ended, court documents show.

The case began in the Supreme Court Overthrowing the Roe v. Wade case in june. But it highlights a problem facing digital privacy experts and some lawmakers. About alarm occurrence Law enforcement agencies in some states may use people’s personal data to enforce laws against abortion. Experts could issue search warrants against tech companies where prosecutors demand location data, search histories or call logs to prove, for example, whether someone had or facilitated an abortion. I warn you. The Burgess case shows how, in some cases, it is done to enforce existing laws.

According to affidavits supporting the search warrant, Celeste, who was 17 at the time of the alleged incident, initially told investigators that she unexpectedly miscarried a stillborn fetus and that she and her mother buried the fetus. When interviewed by a police detective, she “scrolled through her messages on her Facebook Messenger account” to reveal the date of the miscarriage. A search warrant, according to court documents.

CNN Business has also reached out to lawyers for Jessica Burgess.

acted as investigator meta (FB), Facebook’s parent company, issued a search warrant on June 7 for information about Celeste and her mother’s accounts. Facebook submitted the results of the search warrant within two days. The data provided by the company includes over 250 MB of data related to Celeste’s Facebook account and over 50 MB of data related to Jessica’s account, including account information, images, audio and video recordings, messages, and other data. ) were included, court documents show. The data included direct her messages exchanged between Celeste and Jessica two days before her “miscarriage/stillbirth”, suggesting that she received the pill, and explaining how the pill was used and “evidence”. I was planning on what to do with . Affidavit supporting additional search warrant by Detective Ben McBride of the Norfolk Police Investigation Division.

In a statement posted on Twitter Tuesday night in response to a story about the Burgess’ case, Meta spokesperson Andy Stone said, “Ahead of the Supreme Court’s ruling, local law enforcement will take effect in early June. None of the valid warrants received from the enforcement agency mentioned abortion.”

According to court documents obtained by CNN Business, Detective McBride, who is investigating the Burgess, filed an affidavit with Facebook asking for approval of the search warrant, stating that he had committed a “prohibited act with the remains of human remains.” It was stated that it was seeking evidence related to “.

After an initial request to Facebook, prosecutors filed an additional search warrant on June 16, demanding evidence such as Internet searches and purchases of drugs used in the miscarriage.Burgess, according to court documents. Thirteen pieces of technology equipment owned by the couple were also seized pursuant to the warrant.

In June, Celeste and Jessica were each charged with one misdemeanor offense against human remains, one misdemeanor count of covering up the death of another, and one misdemeanor count. After police obtained data from two search warrants, Jessica later allegedly induced an illegal abortion and performed it as someone other than a licensed doctor2. A 22-year-old man was served a court order on charges of covering up the death of another person, according to a May police press release. admitted not to contest the misdemeanor. report From the Lincoln Journal Star.

The incident was previously reported by Lincoln Journal Star, Forbes and Vice.

Nebraska currently bans abortions after 20 weeks of age. This law was in force even before the Roe v. Wade case was overturned. According to court documents, Celeste Burgess was about 28 weeks pregnant when her pregnancy was terminated.

Although the Burgess were indicted before the Roe v. Wade case was dismissed, and while this protection would not have applied to the woman’s behavior after the pregnancy ended, the case did not allow for direct social media messages, etc. It shows how to use personal information to enforce. Laws prohibiting abortion. In 2018, a Mississippi woman was found guilty of second-degree murder after law enforcement pointed to her Internet search results as “buying abortion pills,” among others. was indicted, but the charges were eventually dropped.

Norfolk Police Department Captain Michael Bauer said in an email to CNN Business that officers and detectives could not comment on the incident outside of court.

Following the Supreme Court’s June ruling, tech giants mostly avoided saying How to respond to law enforcement requests for data that could lead to prosecution of abortion seekers and providers — some of those same companies have to travel to obtain legal abortion services; In June, companies including Amazon, Apple, Google, Lyft, Facebook parent company Meta, Microsoft, Uber, Snap, TikTok, and Twitter were among the When asked, they did not respond, declined to comment, or answered questions directly about how they handle data. A request for abortion seekers.

Technology platforms often have little choice but to comply with legal information requests. Technology companies have widely said they will comply with government data requests as long as they are consistent with existing laws. Now, the rollback of federal abortion protections coupled with the passage of new laws restricting abortion in many states could make it difficult for platforms to address certain data requests related to abortion investigations. .

In June, Meta responded to a question about data requests by law enforcement, directing CNN Business to the Transparency Center, saying it would require the government’s requests to be consistent with the law and its own data policies. “If we determine that a government request is inconsistent with applicable law or our policies, we will challenge the government agency to address any obvious deficiencies. If there is, or is in any way legally flawed) ), we will contest or deny the request,” the company said.

— CNN’s Brian Fung contributed to the report.


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