How a Selfie Saved a Man from Serving 99 Years in Prison

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Selfies are a trademark of a generation that has an insane amount of technology at its fingertips and probably at least one deep-seated condition. Our ability to take photos of literally anything is limited only by the storage on our phones or the cloud.

The number of pictures that get snapped and then never seen again is staggering, and oversharing on social media is a way of life. It makes some people feel connected, but it concerns other people.

Do we really want everyone online knowing where we are, what we look like and who we’re with at any given moment in time? That seems like it’s inviting trouble.

But that’s exactly what kept one man out of trouble.

Christopher Precopia was at work when cops showed up and arrested him last year in September. He was flabbergasted and had no idea what he was supposed to have done that would land him behind bars.

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Yet there he was, in Williamson County Jail in Texas, potentially facing 99 years for attacking his high school ex-girlfriend. The only problem was that he hadn’t attacked her — but would anyone believe him?

His ex — who has not been named — told police that Precopia had broken into her home and rushed at her, knocking over furniture and cutting her. She wrote up a detailed account of the attack.

“I had just gotten home from dropping off the kittens I rescued with their new foster mom,” the description read. “I was in the kitchen and I heard the door jiggling and then open.”

“I walked in the room and he charged at me knocking down the table and I fell over the table in the middle and tried to scoot away. He then grabbed me and started punching me and then grabbed my arms and said ‘three strikes and this’ll happen to your sisters’ and cut an x into my chest and then cut lines in my face.”

A serious accusation to level against anyone — but Precopia knew he hadn’t done it. Someone was watching out for him, though, because it turned out he had a solid alibi in the form of a Facebook post and a photo that had been time and location stamped.

He’d been attending an event with his mother, Erin, who took a photo of them at 7:02 p.m. and posted it at 7:09 p.m. The ex-girlfriend reported that the attack had taken place at 7:20 p.m., over 60 miles away.

“I’m thinking, ‘this is awesome. By the grace of God, she said it happened on the day when I can say totally, 100 percent, where he was at,” his mother told KVUE.

When an expert reviewed the photo, he confirmed that it validated Precopia’s story. If his mother hadn’t taken the photo or posted it to Facebook, he could have spent the rest of his life in jail.

Rick Flores, their attorney, said that the case was unusually straightforward. “Most of the time, we deal with gray matters. It’s not normally black or white. But this is one of those cases where I could definitely prove he did not commit this offense.”

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Later, the ex-girlfriend claimed that their high school relationship had traumatized her, which is what spurred her to make up the story. She has not been charged with any crime.

This whole debacle could have been avoided if a little more legwork had been done before Precopia was arrested. A policing consultant, Bruce Mills, emphasized the importance of contacting a suspect and searching for more information before making an arrest in such a case.

“You may not get any more information than you had, but it gives you an opportunity for the suspect to react, respond, deny,” Mills said. “Certainly a case where the suspect appeared to be available, it would be more step you could take.”

Precopia is relieved to have his life back and hopes to be able to live it without fear of future accusations.

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Amanda holds an MA in Rhetoric and TESOL from Cal Poly Pomona. After teaching composition and logic for several years, she's strayed into writing full-time and especially enjoys animal-related topics.
As of January 2019, Amanda has written over 1,000 stories for The Western Journal but doesn't really know how. Graduating from California State Polytechnic University with a MA in Rhetoric/Composition and TESOL, she wrote her thesis about metacognitive development and the skill transfer between reading and writing in freshman students.
She has a slew of interests that keep her busy, including trying out new recipes, enjoying nature, discussing ridiculous topics, reading, drawing, people watching, developing curriculum, and writing bios. Sometimes she has red hair, sometimes she has brown hair, sometimes she's had teal hair.
With a book on productive communication strategies in the works, Amanda is also writing and illustrating some children's books with her husband, Edward.
Austin, Texas
Languages Spoken
English und ein bißchen Deutsch
Topics of Expertise
Faith, Animals, Cooking