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12/21/2005
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Blog Confession Leads To Jail Time For Teen

How dumb can some bloggers be? That's a question 18-year-old Blake Ranking is pondering as he faces five years in prison and 10 years on probation for causing an accident that killed one friend and severely injured another. "It was me who caused it," Ranking confessed in a blog three days after the October 2004 accident.

How dumb can some bloggers be? That's a question 18-year-old Blake Ranking is pondering as he faces five years in prison and 10 years on probation for causing an accident that killed one friend and severely injured another. "It was me who caused it," Ranking confessed in a blog three days after the October 2004 accident.Ranking should be credited for owning up for his actions, but when authorities began to investigate, he rescinded his admission -- that is, till investigators discovered his blog entry on Blurty.com .

Blake, sitting in the back seat as he and then-17-year-old friends Jason Coker and Nicole Robinette left a party pulled the steering wheel as a prank, causing the car to somersault off the road, according to a story in the Orlando Sentinel. The driver, Robinette, was seriously injured. Coke died three months later. Ranking was drunk; his blood alcohol content was more than double the legal limit.

"It was me who caused it. I turned the wheel. I turned the wheel that sent us off the road, into the concrete drain ..." Ranking blogged. "How can I be fine when everyone else is so messed up?"

Two other sites hosted Ranking's blogs: Xanga.com and MySpace.com. The postings reveal a range of emotions, from rage for friends who blame him for the fatal crash to the joy of his 18th birthday, the Florida newspaper reports. Of his blog confession, he wrote: "People say I 'contradict' myself since I 'already admitting pulling the wheel.' I didn't 'ADMIT' anything. I went on a guilt trip, and I posted the story that I WAS TOLD . . . Nicole told me I pulled the wheel, I believed her."

Assistant State Attorney Julie Greenberg says she would have used the blog confession at trial: "Anytime a defendant confesses, that is very relevant and important." And, Ranking defense lawyer John Spivey told the Sentinel he's defending two clients on molestation charges that grew, in part, from disclosures the alleged victim confided on a blog, a trend he expects will continue.

Lee Rainie, founding director of the Pew Internet & American Life Project, in an interview with the newspaper, says Ranking's case shows that many bloggers are unaware or unconcerned that their words can be read by millions of people. "Blogging may feel like private journaling, but it's a highly public act in many cases," Rainie says. "It's like reading your diary on stage or into the world's biggest bullhorn."

The institute estimates 4 million teens write blogs, with about twice as many regularly read the online ramblings.

Are teens that dumb, or don't they simply care when they reveal their innermost thoughts? Robinette's mom, Tina Nagy, says it's stupidity. "I think it's dumb," she told the paper. "I don't want 3 million people in the world knowing what I do or what I think. But that's today's teenagers."

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