Michael Jason Maxwell killed a Goose Creek man with a shotgun. Tony Enriquez took a teenager’s life for a pack of smokes. Tommie “Ricky” Tant shot up a man’s truck during a confrontation in North Charleston.
All are serving time in South Carolina prisons for their crimes. And all found a way to get around prison rules and communicate with folks on the outside through online social media.
Enriquez, serving life without parole for murder, chose Facebook to express himself, as did Tant, finishing a two-year stint for assault with intent to kill. Maxwell was more old-school, posting his profile on MySpace.
Readers alerted Post and Courier Watchdog to the online pages in response to a Jan. 23 article that detailed concerns about inmates using social media and modern technology to taunt victims and carry on criminal activities from behind prison walls. Cell phones and smart phones are banned in prisons across the nation, but they are routinely smuggled in. Some 2,000 phones were seized in South Carolina prisons alone last year.
Three inmate profiles on Facebook were yanked from the site after the story ran. Facebook also pulled the Enriquez and Tant pages this week in response to queries from Watchdog. The pages violated the site’s policies, according to Andrew Noyes, Facebook’s public policy communications manager.
Enriquez, 34, has been in prison since December 1994, when he pleaded guilty to killing former classmate Jeffery Sewell in North Charleston. Enriquez blasted Sewell in the chest with a shotgun after Enriquez and two friends tried to rob the victim, getting no more than a pack of cigarettes, authorities said. He is now serving life at Lieber Correctional Institution in Ridgeville.
A friend of Sewell’s was shocked recently when Enriquez’s face popped up on Facebook as a possible acquaintance. “(Sewell’s death) may have been 17 years ago, but of course the pain is still there,” the friend wrote to Watchdog.
Enriquez’s profile showed him mugging for the camera in prison khakis with a pair of women kissing him on the cheek. He had 43 “friends” listed, along with some close-up pictures of his muscular abs and chest.
Tant, 44, kept his shirt on for the prison photo on his Facebook page. He ended up in MacDougall Correctional Institution in January 2010 after shooting at a man in a pickup truck during a confrontation in North Charleston, according to a police report.
His Facebook profile page appeared to have been maintained mainly by a third party, which is a violation of the website’s rules. However, the last post, on Sunday, stated “I am doing very well and will be home in 28 days.”
Maxwell is bit more secretive with his page, restricting all access to hand-picked friends. One reader, however, sent Watchdog photos that reportedly came from the page showing Maxwell posing in his cell.
Maxwell is serving a 60-year sentence at Lee Correctional Institute for murder. He pleaded guilty to the 2007 fatal shooting of Christopher Dale Teseniar in Berkeley County.
Watchdog alerted MySpace to Maxwell’s page this week, but MySpace spokeswoman Laurie Spindler had nothing to say. “I apologize, but this is not a topic that we’d like to comment on,” she replied in an e-mail Wednesday.
Maxwell’s page was still active late today.
Corrections Department spokesman John Barkley told Watchdog that prison officials follow up and search for phones whenever they learn of a prisoner with an online account at Facebook, MySpace or some other social media site.
He would not say what, if anything, was found in the cells of the three men featured in this story.