By Alon Harnoy, Esq. and Daniel S. Goldstein, Esq.
I am sure you have heard about the alleged incident involving Ivanka Trump and a Brooklyn based attorney named “Daniel Goldstein” that took place on Thursday, December 22, 2016 aboard a JetBlue flight heading from New York to Miami. By coincidence, this seemingly random incident happened to cause quite a disturbance at Shiboleth LLP due to a wide spread case of mistaken identity. This story involves our associate attorney also named Daniel Goldstein, and a large and raucous group of Ivanka Trump supporters coming to her “defense,” only they targeted the wrong Daniel Goldstein attorney in New York.
I am the Managing Partner of Shiboleth LLP, a firm that has employed Daniel S. Goldstein as a fine litigation attorney for the past six years. I would like to begin by saying that we have the highest respect for Ivanka Trump and her family and we condemn the alleged behavior of Daniel Jennings Goldstein on that JetBlue flight, but we hope the following spinoff anecdote assists those of you in the future who are unfortunate enough to be misidentified by the public and the subject of wrongly-placed vilification and disdain on a national scale.
The First 48 Hours
We first noticed something was odd on Thursday morning when we began receiving e-mails calling for the firm to terminate our associate Daniel Goldstein. The e-mails accused him of harassing Ivanka Trump and her child aboard a JetBlue flight to Florida. In large part, the e-mails were crude, vulgar and indecent.
They contained threats and highly prejudicial remarks. They were critical of Daniel Goldstein’s character, and they were calling for action by Shiboleth LLP.
We soon learned that an individual with the same name, who is also an attorney in New York, was being accused by the social media and mainstream media of harassing Ivanka Trump and her family aboard a Jet Blue flight to Florida earlier that day. We immediately realized that this was a case of mistaken identity – and on a very large scale. After the news outlets and social media began to report more broadly on the incident, the emails and phone calls to the firm, and our associate, increased exponentially. In the first 48 hours, the firm received approximately 1,200 emails and phone calls, and over 500 voice messages.
To further add fuel to the fire, certain individuals on Twitter had published our firm’s contact information and our associate’s picture wrongfully identifying him as the “Daniel Goldstein” from the JetBlue flight, and calling on their followers to confront our associate and our firm. Our firm was successful in having these tweets taken down both through responding to the authors of such misinformation and by filing complaints with Twitter.
Within an hour of the first email we realized the gravity of the situation and began taking precautionary measures. Our first priority was safety and security. Many of the emails and voice mails contained threats of violence, and we notified building security to be on alert. Next and foremost, we sought to notify our associate Daniel Goldstein, who himself was out of the country at the time. In his last two days overseas, Daniel Goldstein was receiving emails, phone call and voice messages almost every minute, containing threats of physical and reputational harm. With his trip ending, Daniel Goldstein had to fly back to New York with these threats hanging over his head. Our priority was to not only ensure his security and safe return home, but let him know we stood behind him and supported him, and to stop the individuals on social media from misidentifying him to the public.
Our next response was to update our website. As we were receiving a dramatic increase in the number of visitors to our website, we decided to place a notification on the home page that our associate was not the same Daniel Goldstein from the alleged Jet Blue incident. We placed the same notification on our associate’s bio page. We issued public statements on Twitter. We changed the away message on our associate’s phone to inform the hundreds of callers that it was not the Daniel Goldstein from the Jet Blue flight.
What we have learned, and what we would advise those in future who are misidentified by a faceless mob, is that the key is to respond with speed and integrity, adopting a broad strategy to communicate consistent message points on web (home page, news and attorney bios), Twitter, telephone reception and voicemail. Most importantly we strongly advise against doing nothing at all as mob behavior can turn into an avalanche if left unchecked.