Facebook Page Lands Convicted Sex Offender In Jail

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Marshall County deputies arrested an Albertville man for failing to tell the sheriff he had a Facebook page.

Victor Shawn Cole was convicted of first degree sexual abuse in 2002, and is required to register as a sex offender.

The Alabama Bureau of Investigation requires sex offenders to register e-mail addresses and cell phone numbers, as well as Facebook and MySpace accounts.

Failures to do so is a felony, and Sheriff Scott Walls said investigators found an unregistered Facebook page for Cole during a monthly check.

Facebook records show the account was created in June 2011.

Alabama state law allows sex offenders to have Facebook accounts as long as they include it in their sex offender registration.

Sheriff Walls wants that to change.

“I think Alabama law should reflect that any sexual predator is not allowed to be on a social network where there’s access to children,” Walls said.

Originally called TheFacebook, the social network initially required users to have an e-mail address from a college or university.

Open registration to anyone with a valid e-mail address began in September 2006.

“It’s a good way to keep up with relatives and friends from school, but there’s also a dark side to that,” Walls said.

“You can get sexual predators that actually go on Facebook and other sites to try to entice children to be friends.”

Cole is almost 29, but investigators said many of Cole’s Facebook friends are school-aged girls in the area.

Deputies have not received any reports of inappropriate contact, but continue to investigate.

Walls said parents need to be very vigilant about these pages.

“Ask your children who they’re talking to, look at their pages, and be very aware of what’s going on,” the sheriff said.

“After years of working child abuse in the DA’s office, my theory is that you can’t watch your children too much.”

Although Cole’s Facebook used his own name, Walls advises caution about people using aliases.

“There may be someone who’s talking who appears on the profile that the person is okay, [but it] may actually be a sex offender using an anonymous name.”

The sheriff said his office has ways to contact Facebook management and have the company block sex offenders who are found to violate policies.