Crime

Facebook took down a sex assault video that went viral, but could more copies exist?

From left, Haleigh Hudson, Ezzie Johnson, Kadari Booker
From left, Haleigh Hudson, Ezzie Johnson, Kadari Booker

Police have issued search warrants to Facebook to see if the networking site received more videos of a sexual assault and kidnapping in Gulfport than a copy shared on Facebook Live.

The warrants involve charges against three teenagers and a video from July 11 that went viral after a friend of the victim shared it. Police arrested two of them before they identified a third suspect.

“Investigators want to know if Facebook has any more video available,” Harrison County prosecuting attorney Herman Cox said.

“What they’re thinking is Facebook may have other video than what was shared before Facebook stored the original video, and what else people may have shared,” he said.

The information came out in testimony Wednesday in a bond hearing for 17-year-old Kadari Booker. He had been released Friday from jail Friday on a $400,000 bond.

Booker is the one accused of forcing a 23-year-old woman to perform oral sex on him while Haleigh Hudson, 19, held her down as Ezzie Lee Johnson, 17, filmed it on Facebook Live. Hudson struck the woman as Johnson encouraged a fight, live-streamed the crimes and tracked an increasing number of page views, according to police.

Police Chief Leonard Papania decried the acts and the popularity of the shares in a news conference.

“I can’t help but be disturbed by the incredible numbers of shares and views of this crude and despicable event,” Papania told the media.

Justice Court Judge Melvin Ray reduced Booker’s bonds to $200,000.

Warrants show each of the teens face charges of kidnapping and sexual assault.

Cox said it happened at Hudson’s residence on 7th Avenue and the three held the woman against her will the night of July 11.

Police went to Hudson’s home believing they were responding to a misdemeanor assault, Cox said.

The Facebook Live post had been deleted, but a friend of the victim, who saw the assault part of the video, contacted the victim to offer help and called police, Cox said.

Cox said the friend also shared the video, but Facebook removed the friend’s share at the request of Gulfport police. That post received more than 48,000 page views overnight.

Booker’s case automatically goes to the next grand jury because he was freed on bond before he could be offered a preliminary hearing.

Hudson and Johnson declined to have a preliminary hearing, also called a probable cause hearing. Investigators typically give details of allegations at such a hearing and defendants are sometimes agree to take the witness stand for questioning.

On Wednesday, Ray ordered the case against Hudson and Johnson turned over to the grand jury as well.

Bonds for Johnson and Hudson had been set at $400,000. Their bonds now total $200,000, the Harrison County jail docket shows.

Robin Fitzgerald: 228-896-2307, @robincrimenews

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