Arrested For Blogging About The Police?

from the where-do-you-draw-the-line dept

A bunch of folks have been submitting this story about a blogger who was effectively arrested for blogging about the police, raising a series of free speech issues. As the article notes, the woman hardly makes for a sympathetic symbol of free speech rights. She appears to be a racist supporter of segregation and also seems to have an obsession with the local drug enforcement task force, posting all sorts of information about what they were doing and who was on the task force. But the question is whether any of it actually broke the law. What led to her arrest was posting home address info -- and a photo of the home -- of an officer on the task force. However, as the article linked above notes, that information was gleaned from public sources that anyone could have looked up had they chosen to do so. Making that a crime doesn't seem to make much sense. The police didn't even charge her with obstruction of justice, but with "identifying a police officer with intent to harass." The problem is such a law is so broad, it raises serious First Amendment issues. The woman isn't exactly a model citizen, but it still seems like a stretch to arrest her for revealing information that is already public.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    VancouverDave, Aug 11th, 2009 @ 3:16pm

    Nooooooo, it's not a police state.......

     

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  2.  
    icon
    :Lobo Santo (profile), Aug 11th, 2009 @ 3:29pm

    Re:

    Wow, I could hear the sarcasm.

    You're good. :)

     

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  3.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 11th, 2009 @ 3:47pm

    Actually, the charge is arrest with intent to intimidate.

    By making an example of one person, they hope to discourage such "citizen surveillance" by others.

     

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  4.  
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    Phillip Vector (profile), Aug 11th, 2009 @ 3:51pm

    Free Speech

    Popular speech doesn't need protection.

     

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  5.  
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    IshmaelDS (profile), Aug 11th, 2009 @ 4:13pm

    Can't say I'm surprised this happened.

    Free speech has been a dwindling thing for many years. I personnaly don't agree with her views but that doesn't mean I get to shut her up. Hello streisand effect.

     

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  6.  
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    Ben (profile), Aug 11th, 2009 @ 4:21pm

    From what is written above, it sounds like she was "identifying a police officer with intent to harass."

    If our free speech protections don't cover screaming fire in a crowded theatre I don't see how they apply in posting police officers home addresses with the intent to harass. As long as they prove in court that her intent was to harass and not just inform.

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 11th, 2009 @ 4:22pm

    Even "Wack-Jobs" deserve free speech!

     

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  8.  
    identicon
    RAD, Aug 11th, 2009 @ 4:30pm

    While free speech is one of our may rights it is only a right if it does not infringe upon another persons rights. So while her free speech right to post what she wants about others is fine as long as it does not infringe upon the officers right to privacy, life and or liberty and is not slander or defamation.

     

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  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 11th, 2009 @ 4:39pm

    Today it's a crackpot they're arresting, but what about tomorrow?

     

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  10.  
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    tintin (profile), Aug 11th, 2009 @ 4:44pm

    With my recent brush with the law over some BS. I can see how the cops would have their panties in a wad.

     

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  11.  
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    Michial Thompson, Aug 11th, 2009 @ 4:52pm

    GAWD now the nutcase will have a following

    She's probably lucky that they are pushing this charge rather than stalking charges, or some kind of hate crime charge....

     

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  12.  
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    Javarod (profile), Aug 11th, 2009 @ 5:33pm

    This is reminiscent of a fight between the Phoenix New Times and the Maricopa Sheriff's office here in AZ. Basically state law makes it illegal to publish a law enforcement offers info online. Since the paper is also available online, they were charged with violating the law. To make the law really weird, its legal to put that info in a newspaper, on the radio, on a billboard, basically any way you like, except online. I think law enforcement is scared of an informed public.

     

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  13.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 11th, 2009 @ 5:45pm

    Re:

    You.
    We have your IP, ISP & Location

     

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  14.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 11th, 2009 @ 5:50pm

    Re:

    Wow, that's not fair. Pretty soon it will be illegal for people to express political dissent online but it will be OK to do it everywhere else (because the mainstream media agrees with the mainstream views).

    Also notice how this artificially reduces competition and hence makes newspapers and such relatively more valuable (and makes the info more expensive. I could go into the economics of how this benefits newspapers economically but it's not worth it).

     

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  15.  
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    batch, Aug 11th, 2009 @ 6:28pm

    She stands a good chance of winning a lawsuit against that police department, should she choose to bring one.

     

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  16.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 11th, 2009 @ 6:35pm

    Re:

    because bloggers never sensationalize anything... it's like the guy who was arrested for what bloggers called "talking about 3 judges online." it turns out that most bloggers who bitched about this guy's case neglected to mention the page where the guy put up pictures of the judges and their families, pictures of their homes, addresses, and called on readers to execute the judges. the MSM regularly neglects these kinds of facts too. bottom line, i'm waiting til the whole story is in before i pass judgment.

    on top of this, it's not kosher to post ANYONE's photo and address on a site, even if it is technically public information. singling out people by posting their pics, home addresses, and politically charged info about them should be illegal. she's no better than the nutjobs posting the same info about doctors who perform abortions. assuming the facts in that article are true, i'd convict this lady in a heartbeat... and i hate cops.

     

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  17.  
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    Fatduck (profile), Aug 11th, 2009 @ 6:56pm

    Re: Re:

    Except last I checked we don't live in a Jewish theocracy, so what's "not kosher" isn't necessarily illegal.

     

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  18.  
    identicon
    Curious Bystander, Aug 11th, 2009 @ 6:57pm

    Police

    One of the goals of any police force is to operate in secrecy. This is necessary if you want to really fight crime. However, a good deal of the time its to prevent citizens from learning what is really going on. What this lady did could actually cost this officer his life or the life of a family member. Given a free hand we would live in a police state, however. Everything would be done in the name of protecting the citizens. And so-on-and-so-forth...

     

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  19.  
    identicon
    Clueby4, Aug 11th, 2009 @ 7:20pm

    Free Speech

    While I don't agree with here views, what she was posting is clearly, for the non-obtuse, covered by the first amendment.

    And lets not get into the bogus law that they are charging her with.

    "screaming fire in a theater", undercover pigs needing protection; are you serious? Sorry, I'm not going to be a hypocrit and tell you to STFU but you really need to take a step back and think. Secrecy, sorry if the cops cannot redact the appropriate info that's their problem, not the public's. And the "fire in a theater" what is that default apron strings the feeble-minded cling too, it's not even a stretch.

    Cops are not here to protect you, get that thru your heads!
    See: Castle Rock v. Gonzales

     

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  20.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 11th, 2009 @ 8:33pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    when someone asks you "do you get my drift?" do you find yourself responding "sorry, i can't swim very well"?

    or when they ask "can you dig it?" do you find yourself responding "nope, i don't have a shovel"?

    or when they ask "you're not the brightest crayon in the box, are you" do you ever respond "i'm a human... not a crayon"?

     

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  21.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 11th, 2009 @ 8:40pm

    Re: Re:

    it should really depend on what the info is and how it's presented. a pic of the cop alone isn't so bad. but what legitimate purpose can they have in posting the cop's home address? even when they cover incidents of house fires and drug raids, they still don't mention the actual addresses of the homes. no one should be singled out like that, even if they are a pig.

    and there's a huge difference between a sea of names and addresses on some whitepages site and a page that has the photo of the guy, a photo of his home, the house address, and some statement to the effect of "this is a douchebag cop who is destroying society."

     

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  22.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 11th, 2009 @ 8:42pm

    "While free speech is one of our may rights it is only a right if it does not infringe upon another persons rights. So while her free speech right to post what she wants about others is fine as long as it does not infringe upon the officers right to privacy, life and or liberty and is not slander or defamation."

    How is this different than what the NY Att. General did with AIG executives. He threatened to release a list of the executives home address. A list was circulated and people did in fact show up at their homes.

    I wonder though, the article says she is a racist yet she has a problem with the local drug enforcement units? Who does she think they mostly arrest?

    Sometimes getting someone off the streets is a good thing, no matter the charge.

     

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  23.  
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    The Infamous Joe (profile), Aug 12th, 2009 @ 5:20am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Now, his response was sarcastic, sure, but he has a point. Just because it's "not kosher" or "uncool" or "not nice" doesn't mean it's illegal. You said it yourself. (Assuming you're the same AC that originally posted, of course)

    even if it is technically public information.

    Restating public information shouldn't be a crime. Now, I agree, stating it and then inciting people to hurt that person is a crime. Just posting it would seem like a douchebag move, but it perfectly legal.

    So, yes: Just because it's not kosher doesn't make it illegal.

     

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  24.  
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    The Infamous Joe (profile), Aug 12th, 2009 @ 5:24am

    Re:

    I wonder though, the article says she is a racist yet she has a problem with the local drug enforcement units? Who does she think they mostly arrest?

    That, sir or ma'am, *is* racist. ;)

     

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  25.  
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    maclizard (profile), Aug 12th, 2009 @ 6:49am

    I kind of understand where they are coming from.

    While I agree that she didn't really break the law and therefore should not have been arrested, I have to say that the alternatives could have been much worse.

    Lets say that she continued to post info and nothing was done to stop it. Eventually public officials are going to be getting harassed to the point that legislation would past to make such information classified, or push individuals in public jobs to lie about personal information to avoid such treatment.

     

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  26.  
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    kevjohn (profile), Aug 12th, 2009 @ 6:59am

    Re: Actually, the charge is arrest with intent to intimidate.

    Prof. Gates applauds you for that comment.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
    identicon
    dmntd, Aug 12th, 2009 @ 8:35am

    secret?

    Her opinions on secondary matters mean jack(i.e. racist blah blah). But if these "cops" need handling SOMEONE needs to do it if the useless chief can't handle his job.

    umm I don't think there is a damn thing about secrecy when I police officer takes the oath. ITS SUPPOSED TO BE A DANGEROUS "JOB". There are no guarantees and the war on drugs is a laugh. JEEZ!

    Cops do everything they don't need to and are not meant to. They say they need more power we as the people who are regulated by them know better. Like someone said...as of right now they ARE not here for your betterment. good day.

     

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  28.  
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    Anony1, Aug 12th, 2009 @ 8:41am

    online." it turns out that most bloggers who bitched about this guy's case neglected to mention the page where the guy put up pictures of the judges and their families, pictures of their homes, addresses, and called on readers to execute the judges..

    EXCEPT She didn't threaten.

    on top of this, it's not kosher to post ANYONE's photo and address on a site, even if it is technically public information. singling out people by posting their pics, home addresses, and politically charged info about them should be illegal

    Glad the law governs such things, and not your useless, Stalinist opinion. It's off to the gulag for your comrade.

     

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  29.  
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    Azrael (profile), Aug 12th, 2009 @ 10:17am

    Re: Free Speech

    Apparently in USA now it does.

     

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  30.  
    identicon
    alex, Aug 12th, 2009 @ 11:16am

    Re: Free Speech

    since when the exeption of the rule make the rule..Cops are not here to protect you, get that thru your heads!
    See: Castle Rock v. Gonzales


    u r a nut case just like her

     

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  31.  
    identicon
    VRP, Aug 12th, 2009 @ 4:12pm

    Re: Re: Free Speech

    What's the citation?
    VRP

     

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  32.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 12th, 2009 @ 7:04pm

    Had Prof. Gates disrespected a Crip like he did a cop, he would have been shot. At least he only got arrested.

     

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  33.  
    identicon
    Dan, Aug 12th, 2009 @ 8:06pm

    FREEDOM

    All she did was state what was already free information on the Albermarle County website...she didn't even take the picture, she just copied it from the county website. How can she be arrested for that?

     

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  34.  
    identicon
    Joe Dirt, Aug 13th, 2009 @ 12:29pm

    Re:

    I think you are confused as to what 'rights' you have in this great country of ours. The 4th amendment reads, "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized." I didn't see anything in there about copying someone's address from a public website. Seems we DO NOT have the 'right' to privacy in the country, except from Government.

     

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  35.  
    identicon
    Wise one, Aug 28th, 2009 @ 8:17pm

    Re: Free Speech

    It seems to me it may be UNPOPULAR speech, and
    as such needing full constitutional protection.

    Unfortunately, we have judges with mostly personal agendas on almost every bench, comedians each with a weird sense of humor on the SCUS, their jokes incorporated into judgments that are somehow passed-off and accepted as "good behavior" by the voters -- those voters with zero political savvy who deserve the gov't that they get, in all three branches of gov't...

    VRP

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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