A man licked a carton of ice cream for a viral internet challenge, now he's in jail

Now the authorities and store owners across the country are wrestling with how to stop a series of copycat videos made by people committing the same crime.

A man licked a carton of ice cream for a viral internet challenge, now he's in jail

Now the authorities and store owners across the country are wrestling with how to stop a series of copycat videos made by people committing the same crime.

Investigators in East Texas, where the first video originated, tracked down the girl, but turned the case over to the Texas Juvenile Justice Department because she’s a minor. Then Saturday, the police in Louisiana arrested a man who posted a video on Facebook of himself licking a carton of ice cream in a supermarket, even though he produced a receipt showing that he actually purchased the ice cream afterward.

Lenise Lloyd Martin III, a 36-year-old unemployed man, has been in jail ever since.

Lonny Cavalier, a spokesman for the sheriff’s office in Assumption Parish, said Martin appeared surprised to be arrested.

“He didn’t feel like he had done anything wrong,” Cavalier said. “His explanation was, ‘All I wanted to do was be famous. And I paid for the ice cream.’”

But Martin was charged with criminal mischief for tampering with a product before he had purchased it, and with “unlawful posting of criminal activity for notoriety and publicity,” a rarely used Louisiana law that makes distributing a video of oneself breaking the law punishable as an additional crime.

Martin will spend at least four nights in jail awaiting his bail hearing. In Louisiana, the authorities have 72 hours to bring suspects before a judge, but because of the July 4 holiday, the clock did not start ticking until Monday. The earliest that he will be able to post bail is Wednesday.

Franz Borghardt, a defense lawyer, said that the authorities appeared to be trying to make an example out of Martin in an effort to put a stop to the flurry of ice cream licking incidents.

“This is a highly aggressive arrest based on a seldom-used statute that is constitutionally questionable,” Borghardt said.

The charges were questionable, he said, since it was unclear whether Martin had actually committed a crime. The “unlawful posting” law itself is problematic because it is overly broad and potentially criminalizes speech protected by the First Amendment, he said.

Earlier this year, a woman in Lafayette Parish was arrested on an unlawful posting charge after she posted a video on Facebook of a fight her son was involved in at school; prosecutors eventually dropped the charges. The state law apparently dates to 2008, when lawmakers passed it in response to teenagers who posted videos of themselves running up and punching strangers in what was known at the time as the “knockout game,” Borghardt said.

The ice cream licking video stirred outrage in Belle Rose, a town of about 1,800 people 70 miles west of New Orleans.

Winston “Matt” Walters, who works at a Big B’s Supermarket, said that a customer came into the store on Saturday and told the manager about Martin’s Facebook post, which had attracted hundreds of thousands of views.

“We called the law,” he said.

Martin, who lives a few minutes away from the store, returned to explain to a cashier that he had purchased the ice cream, and produced a receipt to prove it. But Walters said that employees couldn’t be sure which carton he had licked, so they threw all the ice cream out and notified Blue Bell, the ice cream maker.

“It’s a shame,” Walters said. “A grown man doing something like that.”

Cavalier gave a different account of how Martin was caught. He said one of the store owners had a security camera pointed at the back of the store, where the freezer that held the ice cream was, and happened to be watching the camera from home, catching Martin in the act.

Tyler Cavalier, a spokesman for the Assumption Parish District Attorney’s Office (and Lonny Cavalier’s son), said that prosecutors had not yet received any information about the case and could not comment on the charges or likely punishment they would seek.

But he acknowledged that “unlawful posting of criminal activity for notoriety and publicity,” was a seldom-used law.

“Ice cream licking is also not common,” Tyler Cavalier said. “It’s not something we’ve experienced here.”

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

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