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A Visalia man is facing felony identity theft charges after he allegedly made comments from a fake Facebook account mimicking that of San Luis Obispo activist Kevin P. Rice.
David William Platek impersonated Rice “in order to publish false statements that were intended to damage Kevin P. Rice’s reputation,” San Luis Obispo County District Attorney Dan Dow said in a news release Tuesday.
Platek, 36, faces a maximum of four years and eight months in County Jail if convicted of the charges, Deputy District Attorney Michael Frye said via email.
Platek was not listed in custody at the San Luis Obispo County Jail on Tuesday. Court records show a warrant for his arrest was issued Aug. 9, the day the county District Attorney’s Office filed the charges in San Luis Obispo Superior Court.
The agency’s Public Integrity Unit charged Platek with two counts of felony identity theft and one related misdemeanor charge for allegedly unlawfully impersonating Rice on Facebook.
According to the release, Platek used a fake Facebook account that appeared identical to Rice’s account “in order to publish false statements that were intended to damage Kevin P. Rice’s reputation.”
The comments in question were allegedly made on Aug. 9, 2018, on a San Luis Obispo Tribune article about convicted sex offender Brock Turner.
The alleged comments were no longer posted in the comment thread on Tuesday.
On Aug. 9, the Public Integrity Unit filed three charges of identity theft against Platek and sought an arrest warrant. Later that day, a San Luis Obispo County Superior Court judge signed and issued a warrant for Platek’s arrest.
“Widespread use of social media such as Facebook has increased the amount of identity theft on social media platforms,” Dow wrote in the release. “It is important for the public to know that identity theft anywhere — even in the cyber world of social media — is a crime and will be prosecuted.”
“Everyone should be protected from the harm caused by someone impersonating them with the intent to damage their reputation,” Dow wrote. “This case is one of many that have been solved, at least in part, by using the capabilities of our Central Coast Cyber Forensic Laboratory that opened March 1, 2017.”
San Luis Obispo attorney Patrick Fisher confirmed Tuesday that he is representing Platek in the criminal case, but declined to comment further.
A one-time candidate for San Luis Obispo mayor, Rice is a local activist best known for his promotion of the Oceano Dunes State Recreational Vehicle Area as well as his filing of complaints related to campaign finances of political opponents.
In Dow’s latest re-election campaign, Rice filed a complaint to the Fair Political Practices Commission against Dow’s opponent, Judge Mike Cummins.
Rice said by phone that he didn’t see what his support for Dow has anything to do with Platek’s criminal case.
Rice was in transit Tuesday and unable to provide or paraphrase what Platek allegedly wrote under the fake account, but he inferred the comments were profane.
Rice said he submitted a written complaint to the District Attorney’s Office about the comments in 2018. He added that The Tribune’s comments section audience is “abhorrent” and likened it to a “muddy swamp.”
He said he’s been “attacked over and over” by Facebook accounts in The Tribune’s comments section.
“I’ve had to block accounts and this is why,” Rice said. “I think this will be an important case to serve as an example that you can go too far on Facebook.”
Platek is due in San Luis Obispo Superior Court for arraignment Aug. 5.
Correction: This article has been updated to correct an error. The Kevin M. Rice who donated to Dow’s re-election campaign is not the same Kevin P. Rice who is the alleged victim in the case.