Mayor Ardis Defends Police Raid, Complains That Parody Twitter Account Used Up All The Free Speech

from the i'd-find-something-else-to-spend-the-reelection-fund-on dept

As we recently covered, Jim Ardis, the absurdly thin-skinned mayor of Peoria, IL, got the boys in blue to raid a house over a parody Twitter account that portrayed him as a.) a possible drug user, b.) a possible patron of the world’s oldest profession and c.) “trill as fuck.” Peoria’s Finest have never been finer, deploying seven plainclothes officers to nail a dangerous tweeter whose Ardis-mocking account had been shut down by Twitter weeks before. Bonus: drugs were discovered during the raid, which meant the cops could at least declare victory over marijuana use, if not the internet itself.

Now, the fact that the account was already suspended suggests Ardis had previously contacted Twitter about the unflattering parody. So, this next move was overkill. Why would a mayor do such a thing? Because Mayor Jim Ardis believes the First Amendment is zero sum.

“I still maintain my right to protect my identity is my right,” Ardis said in an interview with the Journal Star before the council meeting.

“Are there no boundaries on what you can say, when you can say it, who you can say it to?” Ardis said. “You can’t say (those tweets) on behalf of me. That’s my problem. This guy took away my freedom of speech.”

Presumably prior to this awesome show of force, the mayor had been forced to sit quietly with his hands folded on his desk. But now that he’s stomped on someone else’s First Amendment rights, he can finally freely speak.

But those official bootprints across the back of five Peoria residents aren’t going to leave lasting marks. The Peoria Journal Star reports that no charges will be brought against the Twitter account holder.

A review of state law indicates the account holders of now-shutdown Twitter account, @peoriamayor, didn’t break the law because the actual crime alleged, “false personation of a public official,” has to be done in person, not over the Internet or other electronic media, said State’s Attorney Jerry Brady.

“At this time, no, because subsection (b) doesn’t include the use of electronic media,” he said.

There are also questions as to whether the unrelated drug charge will stick because, well, it’s completely unrelated. The warrant used to raid the house appears to be on legally shaky ground already, and its supposed purpose was to effect arrests and seize evidence related to a Twitter account, not root around until something better presented itself. But it could be weeks before that part is sorted out. The States Attorney says it’s not uncommon for search warrants and affidavits to take “several days to weeks” to arrive at his office. (Must send these via trans-Atlantic steamer, I guess…) One imagines documents related to this case will take longer than usual.

Meanwhile, the population of Peoria, along with the city council, is extremely angry that Ardis abused his position. A long, heated discussion of this incident included members decrying Ardis receiving preferential treatment from the Peoria PD, as well as generally lamenting how his actions have turned Peoria into a national laughingstock.

Ardis, however, seems unfazed. He still firmly believes he did nothing wrong. The problem here is everyone else, starting with the media.

“You’re the ones responsible for getting full information, but not to spin it in the way you want to spin it,” Ardis said to a Journal Star reporter. “To make us look stupid.”

“It’s your responsibility to put actual information out there and cover both sides. Not to opine. And that didn’t happen. Clearly, that didn’t happen.”

Hey, Ardis. Only one person can make you look stupid, and he’s that person up there claiming the First Amendment can’t be evenly divided among several people. The actual information is out there. And it all adds up to Ardis not being able to take a joke, ordering cops to arrest people he doesn’t find funny, and complaining about “suddenly” being universally reviled.

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Comments on “Mayor Ardis Defends Police Raid, Complains That Parody Twitter Account Used Up All The Free Speech”

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kenichi tanaka (profile) says:

Has Mayor Ardis really that far detached from reality? You don’t just lose your constitutional rights to free speech. Those are your rights, as long as you are a citizen in this country.

Not only that, but you can’t “use up” your constitutional rights. Just because government says you don’t have rights, doesn’t make it any less true.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

On the other hand, if someone is impersonating you, it does affect your free speech because people potentially cannot tell whether it’s you or the impostor talking.

Of course, that only applies when people can’t tell who is talking. Presumably people can tell the difference between a parody account and an official account.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

I don’t think you can just shrug off the effects of impersonation on your online speech. (Actual impersonation, not parodies.) You can say “Hey, that’s not me”, but the other guy might contradict you, and sometimes people falsely claim they didn’t post something because they regret what they posted, so who knows if you’ll be believed?

It can amount to a defamation. If you falsely claim I said X, and X is something offensive, you’ve defamed me. (And yes, I can fight that with more speech and tell everyone that I never said that, but that doesn’t mean it’s not defamation.) And if you falsely claim to be me while saying X, that would seem to me to be worse than merely claiming I said X.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Fundamental misunderstanding about freedom of speech. That’s ok, you probably don’t have to have such fundamental understanding of all the laws for your job.

A Mayor, on the other hand, should have that fundamental understanding of what is freedom of speech, and what is “i’m making this shit up cuz I’m pissed”

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Heh… you are dead wrong.

All people that call themselves US Citizens should have a fundamental understanding of their rights. This lack of fundamental understanding is what is causing the rapid breakdown of this Nation.

Remain ignorant at your own peril, the price we pay for this ignorance in Liberty & Blood is untenable.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

What am I misunderstanding? OK, he still has his “right to free speech” because he has that right no matter what anyone does. However, in the hypothetical situation of a non-parody account that people actually think is him, it could unfairly cause people to not listen to him.

Imagine a televised debate where the networks dubbed over Obama’s voice so it sounded like he was saying something else. Do you really think that would be OK? I mean, Obama still has his “right to free speech” because he can still say whatever he wants; it’s just that everyone will think he said something else. I don’t know about you, but I for one would not think that was OK.

Quixote (profile) says:

Re: the parody must be clear and obvious

If the parody is not obvious and if it creates an impression that’s embarrassing to someone, it crosses the line into criminality. It must be comical, not deadpan. “Giving an impression” is conduct, not speech, and is not protected by the Constitution. Whether the parody is obvious enough to pass muster is decided by juries on a case-by-case basis, so anyone who wants to engage in this kind of “speech” should be aware that he is risking arrest and prosecution for identity theft. See the documentation of one criminal satire case at:

beltorak (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

I’m afraid natural common sense has been a very scarce resource for a few decades now. We have been making great strides in manufacturing sense though, and “I Can’t Believe it’s not Common Sense!??” is very popular. Unfortunately this kind of sense seems to absorb the grease used in the wheels of justice and the halls of power at a truly astounding rate.

Trails (profile) says:

“You?re the ones responsible for getting full information, but not to spin it in the way you want to spin it,” Ardis said to a Journal Star reporter. “To make us look stupid.”

“It?s your responsibility to put actual information out there and cover both sides. Not to opine. And that didn?t happen. Clearly, that didn?t happen.”

In other words, “Your article fails to take into account my butthurt.”

Anonymous Coward says:

According to the law:

(g) A violation of subsection (a)(1) through (a)(7) or subsection (e) of this Section may be accomplished in person or by any means of communication, including but not limited to the use of an Internet website or any form of electronic communication.

The impersonation of a public official is in subection(b). Since the law specifies which sections it’s meant to apply to for the Internet, that implies it does not apply to the other subsections. That’s why the law doesn’t apply here, in case anyone was wondering.

You’d think they’d read the law BEFORE raiding the guy’s house. On the other hand, I originally missed that part myself when I was looking at this law earlier.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Even IF it did apply. Parody is protected by the first amendment. The statute could only apply to someone actually attempting to deceive someone into thinking that they were actually the public official. Any state or local law that would attempt to criminalize parody would immediately be unconstitutional.

Coyne Tibbets (profile) says:

Re: Re:

If they read the law first, then they wouldn’t be able to punish. Trust me, they know this case will fail, but the point will have been made in the most brutal fashion possible.

So then once the nonsense is over, he has to sue for recompense…and who pays for that? You and me, not the mayor. Punished him and punished us, all in one fell swoop; a perfect reminder of what it means to step out of line.

mcinsand (profile) says:

perhaps like Voldemort...

It would be funny if, just as Voldemort picked his nemesis, Ardis has set up his own. After this royally stupid move, I have no doubt that the person arrested has publicity to spare. Not only that, but we can safely assume that Ardis’ victim won’t be a worse replacement as mayor. To boot, I’d vote for him just to raise a finger in Ardis’ direction. If that happens, I certainly hope that Peoria’s police force does not have a union. After the way they let power be so obscenely abused, it would be nice to have them report to someone with an axe to grind.

Peter (profile) says:

Stop picking on the guy! Totally not justified! His post on Popehat makes it perfectly clear that the accusations are ridiculous:
– “[he has not] “shacked up” in a motel with a so-called “notorious furry.
– [he has] not hired any sex workers. [and he hopes they will] stop being such fucking liars about important people.
– [he does] not have a “drug problem.” [which is a ridiculous accusation anyway, since Arden is] fortunate to be affluent, to have friends, and to know many people in the criminal justice system.
– [he has] not accepted cash in low denominations for political favors, as has been claimed. That’s ridiculous.

[And please note that] Interns hallucinate and are prone to sudden unconsciousness. It’s a thing. You can Google it.”

David says:

Your job: It's not to opine.

Okay, I’ll grant that. After the facts are reported, it’s MY job to opine. And I opine that Ardis did something that’s overbearing, abusive of his position, and directly contributed to making Peoria a laughingstock.

I’d also opine that Ardis may want to consider alternate employment options for after the next election cycle.

Anonymous Coward says:

Mayor Ardis is a friggin’ public figure. Claiming defamation takes a higher bar to reach than a private person. We don’t even have to talk parody here.

This would be laughed out of court anywhere a kangaroo court isn’t set up.

Mayor Ardis’s thin skin is the whole issue here and his ability to use his political force to get what he wants. I can’t help but wonder just what he promised or implied he would do at a later date for the PPD.

He has shown he doesn’t have the political skills to actually hold the office he occupies. If he is that worried about his public reputation then I would suggest he has something else he is worried about being uncovered that wouldn’t stand the light of day. Either than or those supposed parody lines may have hit a lot closer to home than was comfortable for him.

Having dirty political commercials coming out during election time either must bring about a near allergic reactions or have him running for the bomb shelter. He has shown his metal and by that dirty political commercials might be something he could aspire to getting credit for. He’d sure come off looking better than this.

Anonymous Coward says:

Oh poo.

The jerk mayor likely had the pot planted – probably from his own stash – just so that he could work without the annoying hinderance of civil rights getting in the way.

Nothing says “you have no rights under the law” better than a bit of the old “drugs found on premises” addon to an arrest report.

Like all crooks in office, his knowledge of the law is about the same level as his knowledge of right and wrong – non-existent.

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