City Of Peoria Offers $125,000 Non-Apology To Owner Of Twitter Account That Parodied Its Mayor

from the mayor's-power-inversely-proportionate-to-skin-thickness dept

The taxpayers of Peoria, Illinois, will be footing the bill for the bumbling thuggishness of their thin-skinned mayor and an all-too-compliant police force.

Last April, Peoria mayor Jim Ardis somehow stumbled across a parodic Twitter account run by local Jon Daniel. Taking offense to the account’s content, Ardis managed to talk the police department into raiding Daniel’s apartment, despite the chief of police informing the mayor that no criminal activity had actually occurred.

Backlash ensued. The mayor took to the airwaves to defend his actions, claiming the parody account used up all the free speech, leaving him no way to defend himself against tweets suggesting he was “trill as fuck.”

A lawsuit ensued. The ACLU took up Daniel’s case and sued the mayor, the city and various law enforcement officers. Faced with the possibility of increased damages if the case went to trial, the city has decided to pay Daniel $125,000 for actions it took because its mayor couldn’t take a joke.

The central Illinois city of Peoria tentatively agreed Wednesday to pay $125,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by a man whose home was raided by police over a Twitter account he created depicting the mayor as a lewd fan of drugs and alcohol.

The deal includes no admission that Peoria did anything wrong, but it calls for the city to send its police department a directive emphasizing that parody does not fall under an Illinois statute regulating false personation of a public official, which was used to obtain warrants to arrest Daniel.

As is the case with nearly every government lawsuit settlement, the accused get to walk away without admitting wrongdoing while allowing other people to pick up the tab.

The directive agreed to by the city in the settlement is the tiniest concession of wrongdoing. And, as such, it’s redundant. It simply demands the police enforce the law as it is written, rather than the mayor’s reading of it through the haze of butthurt and misdirected indignation.

In consideration of the releases set forth in Paragraph 6 above, Defendant agrees to implement the False Personation Statute Directive (attached hereto as Exhibit 1), including but not limited to announcing and distributing Exhibit 1 to all current City of Peoria police officers at roll call and certifying to the ACLU that they have done so. Defendant City of Peoria further agrees that it will continue to abide by the terms of the False Personation Statute Directive until and unless a specific change in circumstances, such as a modification in the governing law or a change in the interpretation of the law by the Peoria County State’s Attorney’s office, provides Defendant a good faith belief that adherence to the terms of the False Personation Statute Directive are no longer appropriate.

This reminder shouldn’t be needed and will doubtless be greeted with various levels of eye-rolling when delivered to police officers. The cops that weren’t involved will know the actions taken on behalf of Ardis were wrong. And those who did participate will resent being talked down to by a settlement stipulation. The underlying problem with this directive is that — as noted above — the involved officers already knew Daniel’s parody account didn’t break the law cited in support of the raid of his apartment.

Here’s what Chief Settingsgaard emailed to the mayor before the raid took place.

Mayor/Manager, I reviewed this matter with Detective Feehan. He is in the process of shutting down the account as you saw from my last email. This phony Twitter account does not constitute a criminal violation in that no threats are made. I’m not sure if it would support a civil suit for defamation of character. I’m not an expert in the civil arena but my recollection is that public officials have very limited protection from defamation. I asked (Feehan) about identity theft and he advised it did not qualify because the statute requires the use of personal identifying information such as a social security number, DOB, etc., and a financial gain form (sic) the use of that information. Twitter does not require identifying information other than an email address and name, and there appears to be no financial gain.

And yet, the police did raid Daniel’s apartment. Rereading the law at roll call isn’t going to prevent abuse in the future. The Peoria Police Department has already indicated its willingness to ignore the law if the right person asks. With this settlement, it’s basically buying its way out of accountability.

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Comments on “City Of Peoria Offers $125,000 Non-Apology To Owner Of Twitter Account That Parodied Its Mayor”

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Ninja (profile) says:

Well this is interesting. Here we have a Got body called Public Ministry (free translation). They are some sort supervisory body that can prosecute governments, companies and individuals that cause damages to the society. Not an accurate description but basically they sue politicians, companies and people engaged in corruption or anything that goes against the constitution or established rights. why I’m describing them? Because in this case even if the guy settled the MP (as we call them here) can and probably would prosecute the involved themselves because a favorable decision to Daniel would promote greater societal good. They often move investigations into corruption and other related activities that turn into full federal investigations and may include any governmental sphere. Maybe the US need such government body (that is fully independent from the Government)?

Sorry if I haven’t made myself clear (and I myself don’t understand this part of the law clearly) but if you want and can understand Portuguese there’s further reading:

That One Guy (profile) says:

Seems to me a good use for that $125K would be to donate it towards anyone running in opposition to the thin-skinned idiot pretending to be a mayor if he tries for re-election the next election.

Bet you could get a nice bit of mileage out of that much money, and using it against the child masquerading as an adult in a mayor costume would be ever so fitting. If the courts refuse to punish the ones actually guilty by forcing them to pay, then the least that can be done is taking the money pried from the taxpayers and using that to punish the guilty parties, even if indirectly.

Christenson says:

Apology from crack-smoking Jim Ardis?

This is a point at which the individuals involved should not have qualified immunity. That $125K (and a very public apology) should be extracted personally from Mayor Ardis and the Chief of police — who violated his (assumed)sworn oath to uphold the law.

P.S. Somebody go find out what drugs Mr Ardis is on….the strength of his response indicates he really *was* on drugs!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Apology from crack-smoking Jim Ardis?

Totally agree. The asshat mayor should provide the funds himself as his actions were outside of his duties and overt abuse of his position. I would not accept the taxpayer money and demand the settlement offer from him directly. A plague of idiot twitter accounts on his house.

Btw; how does one “use up” free speech? It’s not like taxpayer money there Ardis. Notice that you do not deserve the title of Mayor or honorable as you’ve used those up.

Haywood (profile) says:

Re: Re:

An adjective used in hip-hop culture a combination of the words “true” and “real”.

Trill is when you’re hustlin, trill is when you’re grindin
Trill is when you punch in that clock overtimin
Trill is when you keep it real one hundred percent
And hold it down for your team run your game full sprint
Trill is when you never fake, trill is when you real
Chasin after dollar bills, gotta get it how you live
Trill is when you hustle so you go out there and get it
Doin whatever you gotta do to make a meal ticket
– Paul Wall “Trill”

GEMont (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Trill

Trill simply means that you are willing to do whatever it takes to get money; kill folks, lie, cheat, steal, sell drugs, pimp whores, assassination/grease-gunner, take bribes, make bribes, fake news, shill for corps, and anything else that offers an opportunity to make an extra buck, regardless of any consequences to others.

The two lines that sound favorable to most folks, are:

Keepin’ it real one hundred percent” and Trill is when you never fake, trill is when you real

These 2 lines merely mean that you believe that there are no altruists or good guys in the real world, and that everyone else is doing exactly the same thing you’re doing, and if you don’t do it to them first, they’ll do you.

It means you never waste any of your time worrying about being a nice guy, or about the consequences of your actions, because, if there really were any nice guys, they would finish last anyway and anyone you cause grief, getting yours, deserves it, because they were in your way, and didn’t manage to do you first.

You did know that bad guys do not see themselves as the bad guys, right?

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Interesting directive

They did. Ultimately I’d say the police are more responsible here than the child of a mayor.

A child pretending to be an adult throwing a tantrum is to be expected, even if it’s not desired. The police on the other hand specifically noted that they didn’t believe the major had a valid claim, and that his order to them wasn’t supported by law, yet they followed the order anyway.

“I was just following orders” has never been a valid excuse, yet that’s exactly what the police did here.

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