Sue ’em if they can’t take a joke.
Well, sue ’em if they can’t take a joke and go so far as to raid your house, seize your electronics and abuse a law that contains no provision for impersonating someone via electronic means, in order to show you how much they aren’t laughing.
As was noted earlier, the ACLU is representing Jon Daniel, the Peoria native behind a Twitter account that parodied Mayor Jim “Trill As Fuck” Ardis. Ardis was sufficiently offended by the off-color nature of the account that he demanded the local police do something about it. And they were only too happy to comply, rooting around in the local statutes (and throwing in child porn accusations for good measure) until they found something they could use.
It didn’t take. Charges were dropped by the District Attorney, and Mayor Ardis was forced to defend himself against angry citizens who had just witnessed the power of government being thoroughly (and pettily) abused. According to Ardis, he had to do this. Until the account was closed, he had no First Amendment rights… at least according to his bizarre rationale.
The ACLU has filed its complaint against the City of Peoria, the mayor, his staff and a handful of law enforcement officials. The lawsuit asks for no specific damages, but one imagines those named are now in the process of nailing down a settlement amount that’s affordable without being insulting.
The filing also fills in some more details on the overreach and abuse by these public figures and public servants. One of the more surprising details is just how long the Peoria PD held onto Daniel’s cell phone (presumably as evidence of a Twitter account).
Daniel was arrested (at work) on April 15th. Charges were dropped on April 23rd (something Daniel learned from the papers, rather than from the city itself). That day, he visited the police department to get his phone back. The police refused. Daniel’s lawyer sent a letter the next day demanding the release of Daniel’s phone. It took all the way until May 2nd for the PPD to return property it never should have had in the first place.
Equally as surprising was how many warrants were crafted and served over a parodic Twitter account. In addition to the warrant served Twitter, the PPD also served one to Comcast. It obtained warrants to search his residence and cell phone. (Presumably, warrants were in the works for the electronics seized during the four-officer raid of the Twitter parody account’s “headquarters” — i.e., Daniel’s home.) According to the filing, the PPD was also working on a warrant to serve to Google to access Daniel’s email account. All of this over a Twitter account that was shut down by Twitter on March 20th after verifying that Mayor Jim Ardis was not behind it.
There’s nothing in here that wasn’t done out of sheer vindictiveness. Once the account was closed, Ardis was free to create an official account for the mayor’s office. But he didn’t. Instead, he worked closely with Peoria Police for more than a month to ensure the account’s creator was punished. Now, he and his office, along with every law enforcement member involved, are being sued for violating Daniel’s rights. I’m sure this isn’t playing out exactly how Ardis envisioned it. Instead of “protecting” his reputation, he’s completely destroyed it, doing more damage than a profane parody account (or twelve…) could ever do.
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