NY EMT charged with posting corpse photo on Facebook

By Karen O'Shea
The Staten Island Advance

NEW YORK — A Staten Island EMT worker was arrested yesterday and charged with official misconduct for allegedly posting a picture of murdered 26-year-old Caroline Wimmer on his Facebook page.

Mark Musarella, 46, a retired police officer, pleaded not guilty during his arraignment yesterday in Criminal Court. His attorney, Edward Pavia, said the matter was a tragic misunderstanding and his client never meant for the photo to be displayed.

An attorney for the Wimmer family, meanwhile, said the family hopes Musarella's prosecution will lead to changes in Facebook's policies - something that could head off a planned civil lawsuit against the social networking site.

Musarella is charged with taking a picture of Ms. Wimmer after responding to a radio call March 30 at her Greenleaf Avenue apartment, where she was found strangled with the cord of her hair dryer.

District Attorney Daniel Donovan said Musarella later posted the photo on Facebook. Richmond University Medical Center fired the EMT after the alleged incident. Musarella, who faces up to one year in prison if convicted, was released on his own recognizance.

'It is unconscionable'
The Staten Island Advance first reported on Musarella's alleged picture-taking May 26.

"It is unconscionable to me that an emergency medical technician, let alone one with significant law enforcement experience, would take a photo of a murder victim, of someone's loved one or friend, and place that on the Internet for all to see," Donovan said in a statement released today.

Pavia said his client was deeply sorry for any pain the incident caused the family, but not guilty.

"When all the facts come out it will be clear that he never intended for any photo to be displayed, and that when he took the photo he was merely following instincts he developed for years while a New York City police detective. The fact that this decorated former detective and EMS worker, who has been honored numerous times for his brave and heroic public service, is now being prosecuted and has been so vilified as a result of something that will easily be proven to have been accidental, just adds to this already tragic situation," he said.

Pavia would not elaborate on how the photo might have been mistakenly posted.

Ravi Batra, attorney for the Wimmer family, dismissed the argument.

"It doesn't happen accidentally. You can't post something on Facebook as a slip-and-fall, and Facebook ought to look at its protocols that permit this type of conduct," he said.

"The family has said to me very clearly that they are not interested in money-based litigation, but protocol litigation. If this prosecution, for example, causes changes in how first responders act and how Facebook acts, that will go a long way in preventing a civil lawsuit," he added.

Last month, police arrested Calvin Lawson, 28, of Brooklyn, accusing him of killing Ms. Wimmer because he believed she was spreading rumors that he was cheating on his then-pregnant girlfriend. A former Mariners Harbor man, Joshua K. Perry, 23, is also charged in the case. Authorities allege that Perry, while AWOL from the Marine Corps, helped Lawson clean up the murder scene.

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