Tuesday, April 25 2023


” Hi guys ! I’m going to jail!

Over the shoulders of Coco Briscoe’s fluffy white bathrobe, in the hallway outside her Arlington apartment, two uniformed police officers appeared.

It wasn’t the kind of content one would expect from a TikTok series called “Dating DC”

What Briscoe pitched as a light romantic drama turned into a serious legal drama, with allegations of slander and harassment both by and against her.

The 39-year-old, whose legal name is Crystal Nicole Briscoe, has gathered thousands of followers on TikTok as she recounts her attempts to find love as a recent DC-area transplant. Gradually she focused less on the men she sees and more on a group of Arlingtonians, including two local bartenders, who she says made humiliating comments about her and shared her personal information. in a large text-based discussion group.

Bartenders say Briscoe was the one who stoked the harassment with inaccurate videos watched by hundreds of thousands of people. People on both sides of the conflict, which have unfolded widely on social media, said this led to anonymous posts that frightened them.

One of the bartenders went to Arlington County General District Court twice and obtained restraining orders banning Briscoe from listing her on social media, claiming the TikTok videos caused a wave insults online and over the phone that caused her to flee her apartment and send her son away. to his father.

A judge rejected the protective order on Wednesday and two legal experts said such blanket speaking bans violated the U.S. Constitution. Still, Briscoe, who filed his own police report, could still be guilty of a misdemeanor, in a case that shows how social media disputes can get out of hand and get into the First Amendment.

It started with a date that wasn’t.

Briscoe says that in early summer she was picked up by a local chef and then rescued by a bartender who bought her drinks – a saga she told her fans enthusiastically first and then to through tears.

She said on TikTok that someone showed her a group text chat that led her to believe the whole incident was staged to make fun of her. Members of the texting channel called her a whore and approved of the violence against her; one posted a video of her cycling home and Crystal’s name, which she said she did not share.

“That’s when it all got scary,” she said in a TikTok video.

In an interview, Briscoe said he read the texts when a member of the group showed him parts of the conversation, which Briscoe captured and shared with the Washington Post. She said the bartender who joined her for a drink appeared in the text group, as well as a female bartender at another local bar she frequented.

Briscoe claimed on TikTok that she concedes she can’t prove, including that the two bartenders and their bars were behind a wave of offensive comments on her page and one of them gleaned their address on their credit card to file the first protection order. This order initially listed Briscoe’s address as “unknown”.

While at first she was vague in her videos, she eventually shared the first names of the bartenders – Charlotte and Nic – and their places of work. Both establishments have been inundated with negative reviews on Google and Yelp, referring to harassment against women. And both bartenders say they have personally received some nasty messages.

“I am terrified,” the bartender, who requested the protection orders, said Wednesday in court as she sought an extension of the second order. “I don’t sleep. I don’t eat. I haven’t slept in days. I’m in pain, my hair is falling out.” She said she left her apartment and sent her son to his father.

She admitted in court that there had been no direct threats from Briscoe or anyone else. A judge rejected his request, saying it was unfounded.

Protection orders “can only be issued if there is evidence of an act of violence, force or threat to commit such an act,” Judge Richard McCue said. “There has been no evidence to support this.”

The woman did not provide further comments to The Post.

Nicholas Gray, the other bartender accused by Briscoe, said he received more than 100 heinous calls at his bar the night Briscoe was arrested.

“I’m afraid for who will come in,” he said. “It’s going to get crazy.”

It was Gray that Briscoe accused of taking her out with the intention of humiliating her, an accusation he denies. It was just an informal meeting, he insists, that he offered to pay because he gets a discount at the bar where he works. He barely uses social media, he added, and played no role in the anonymous comments.

“I am nothing of what she says I am,” he said.

While “some derogatory things were said about Ms. Briscoe” in the group chat, Gray admitted, “the only time her location was discussed was for people to avoid her. Whether it was right or wrong, that’s what it was. She’s a problem. “

The bartender also admitted to taking a video of Briscoe riding a bike and sharing it with the text group, but said it was to warn other bars that Briscoe might be coming.

Briscoe says she has never behaved inappropriately in any bar and insists she is the victim. She was the first to approach authorities, filing a police report on July 19.

“I fear for my safety,” she wrote in the report. “I no longer feel safe in my neighborhood.

The next day, Briscoe said, she was served by four police officers at 4 a.m. with a restraining order ordering her “not to discuss” the bartender “or related matters on social media.”

She stayed out of TikTok for three days. Upon her return, she told her supporters that the argument was at the root of her absence. If anyone had guessed that someone in the focus group “filed a restraining order against me … you would be right,” she said.

Until then, she had not named any establishment and had only used the first names of the bartenders. She said her supporters convinced her that if she really felt the bars were dangerous, she should warn others and that she no longer trusted the police because the bartender had described her boyfriend as a cop. ‘Arlington.

She named the bars where Gray and the female bartender work and added, “Can’t stand these places, they are rubbish.”

Both establishments have been inundated with negative reviews on Google and Yelp, referring to harassment against women.

The next morning, this time at 5 a.m., police arrived at Briscoe’s gate with a new injunction. She told them to wait outside, then brushed her teeth and posted another video naming the bartender and the bar where she worked.

“Looking back, this is not the right decision,” she said in an interview. But right now, she said, she couldn’t believe she could be put in jail for something so “ridiculous”.

Less than an hour later, she was. The police were “really mean,” she said during the interview; “It was a horrible experience.”

An Arlington Police spokesperson said there was no record of Briscoe filing a complaint.

During her three hours in jail, Briscoe appeared by video before a magistrate who told her she could go to jail if she continued to break the order.

“I said, ‘Really? For doing a TikTok?’ “

Yes and no, says Eugene Volokh, a lawyer at UCLA who has followed these kinds of protection orders.

“An order that says ‘stop talking about this person’ is unconstitutional no matter who you are,” he said. Yet he has identified more than 200 of these injunctions, which are often difficult to find because they are not available in searchable databases.

Bartenders could apply for a protective order to stop the direct threats, he said, but not the negative comments. If she makes false accusations, he said, they could sue Briscoe for libel, but even if they win in the lawsuit, they may not be able to prevent her from making similar claims.

“Although speaking to someone may, in certain circumstances, be rightly considered harassment if it is unwanted, the same cannot be said for speaking about someone, even if it is unwanted, “Vera Eidelman, lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union. , agreed in an e-mail. “And that’s for good reason: a number of people – from racist cops and corrupt politicians to busy parents – might want to silence talk about them, especially if they’re critical, but the Constitution does not allow this outside of very specific, narrow circumstances. “

Briscoe said she tried to get a protection order herself and was refused.

Even though the judge dismissed the order against her, Briscoe still faces a misdemeanor charge for violating it. Called to the stand on Wednesday, she invoked her right to silence, on the advice of her lawyer.

“I need a glass of wine and a nap,” she told supporters after the court.

She has another hearing in September.

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