The man accused of impersonating the Miami Beach police department's public information officer via social media appeared in court on Friday.
Ernesto Orsetti was arrested Thursday on a charge of impersonating a law enforcement officer after he created a fake Twitter account for spokesman Ernesto Rodriguez back in January, officials said.
Orsetti, who lives in Miami Beach, used a photo of Rodriguez and engaged with local media, elected officials and the community as if he were Rodriguez, officials said.
"The defendant basically created a Twitter account," detective Sergio Campos said in court. “It has the picture of a Miami Beach police vehicle and also has a picture of the victim in uniform.”
Impersonating a police officer, whether in person or online, is a felony. The fake Twitter account was detected when followers of Rodriguez's real account noticed the unusual activity.
Orsetti's public defender argued that Orsetti caused no harm.
“He didn’t go out on the street and did anything to harm anyone, you know, pretending as a police officer on the street. It was only done by Twitter, or electronic or internet medium," Orsetti's public defender argued.
But Police Chief Daniel Oates previously suggested the incident was nothing other than serious.
"The behavior here was outrageous. It threatened to damage the reputation of our superb Public Information Officer, as well as the Miami Beach Police Department brand," Oates said in a statement on Thursday. "We simply can’t tolerate such an impersonation, and I am glad Mr. Orsetti will now be held accountable.”