Her Facebook page was, according to state prosecutors, "a shrine to alcohol, lewdness and debauchery," and they used photos posted there to help put Alia Altajir away for three years in the women's prison in Niantic.
Last week, Connecticut's State Supreme Court heard arguments that those pictures should never have been allowed as evidence and that 26-year-old Altajir's constitutional rights were violated.
"Under any circumstances [the photos] shouldn't have come in," insisted Moira Buckley, one of Altajir's lawyers, during a special hearing at Western Connecticut State University. (The state's highest court occasionally takes its hearings on the road around Connecticut. This time, the Supremes were playing to a packed house of nearly 400 students and professors fascinated by the Facebook-related controversy. Altajir, who is still locked up, didn't attend.)
The original case stemmed from one wild night in 2004. Altajir, the pampered granddaughter of an Arab billionaire, had been drinking Skyy vodka with buddies and allegedly doing PCP. She ended up driving her mom's BMW 325 into the Housatonic River in Kent and killing her best friend, 18-year-old Dustin Church of Madison.
Altajir was initially charged with manslaughter. She agreed in 2007 to a plea bargain on a lesser charge, and got a year in jail and five years probation. Church's family said at the time they hoped this reputed "party girl" would turn her life around.
In 2009, after being released from prison, she admitted to violating her probation.
Altajir was caught as a result of a minor traffic accident in Greenwich. Police found the car she was driving at the time had no interlock ignition device, which was against the terms of her probation. She was also driving with a suspended license. Prosecutors claimed Altajir offered the woman in the other car a $1,000 bribe not to report the accident to the cops.
As if that wasn't enough, Altajir had another problem.
One condition of her probation was that she get a job. According to State's Attorney David Shepack, Altajir told her probation officer her "rich upbringing" meant she didn't really need to go to work.
Altajir is reportedly the granddaughter of Mahdi al-Tajir, a citizen of the United Arab Emirates with a net worth estimated by Forbes at $4.3 billion.
It was at her 2009 sentencing hearing in Litchfield Superior Court that those Facebook photos came into play. And by all accounts, they left Judge James Ginocchio flabbergasted.
"These photos had impact," Buckley told the six Supreme Court justices listening to arguments about Altajir's appeal. "The photos are not harmless. ... The court seemed to be quite moved."
Judge Ginocchio, after viewing those Facebook photos in 2009, asked, "Where is the remorse?"
"Every one of these pictures looks like you have forgotten about what happened," he told Altajir. "When you kill a young person and bring unspeakable grief to a family, you don't get a second chance."
There was the photo of Altajir in a sequined bikini on a boat in Boca Raton, Fla., doing beer bongs. Another showed her "hood surfing" on a limousine. Others included her downing beer at a New York Yankees game and doing it up at the Waldorf-Astoria.
Some of the photos were noted as coming from an album titled, "Why I'm hot."
But others were posted from a different album labeled "Old Photos." There were more that had been posted by friends. The shots were posted after Altajir was put on probation, but there is a lot of debate about whether they could have depicted partying in earlier years.
The timing matters. The prosecutor argued the photos demonstrated Altajir wasn't changing her lifestyle, that she wasn't really sorry that her best friend had been killed because of her alcohol abuse. He claimed the photos could be dated by Altajir's hair color, which she'd changed after going to prison and on probation.
Buckley admitted that posting those photos and keeping the Facebook page up at all showed "terrible judgment" on Altajir's part. In fact, Altajir and her original lawyer had argued about that Facebook page before her sentencing hearing, Buckley told the justices.
But, Buckley added, "There is no date on a single photo. … We have no idea when these photos were taken. … There is no evidence these photos were taken during probation."