We’re exercising our freedom and taking off the 3rd to celebrate the 4th. See you Monday!Hide

ACLU Files Lawsuit Against Mayor And Police Officers Who Shut Down Parody Twitter Account, Arrested Its Owner

from the the-streisand-school-of-reputation-management dept

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.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    icon
    Arsik Vek (profile), Jun 13th, 2014 @ 9:56am

    You know you're a nerd when: Reading the phrase "Trill as Fuck" gives you Star Trek flashbacks.

     

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

  2.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 13th, 2014 @ 9:58am

    This is the sort of blowback that can happen when make the mistake of going after dangerous criminals without deploying a SWAT team in an MRAP.

     

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

  3.  
    identicon
    Michael, Jun 13th, 2014 @ 10:03am

    Cell Phone

    Let's break this down:

    Daniel was arrested (at work) on April 15th.
    So at this time, the police had obtained evidence.

    Charges were dropped on April 23rd (something Daniel learned from the papers, rather than from the city itself)
    The police were clearly too busy at this time defending themselves from the crapstorm they created arresting him to return any property.

    That day, he visited the police department to get his phone back. The police refused.
    Still too busy with the stupid public causing problems and media attention. Plus, they had loaned it out to an officer that needed to take a few selfies and post them on Facebook.

    Daniel's lawyer sent a letter the next day demanding the release of Daniel's phone.
    This letter was redirected to an undisclosed NSA location and a listening device enclosed. It took 3 days to arrive.

    It took all the way until May 2nd for the PPD to return property it never should have had in the first place
    The letter from Daniel's lawyer indicated it was an iPhone. THOSE CAN BE TURNED INTO DEADLY GUNS. So, they had to send the potential deadly weapon to another facility to have it tested and verify it was safe. Oh, the NSA intercepted it while it was being sent as well.

    So, this was pretty fast, actually.

     

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

  4.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 13th, 2014 @ 10:20am

    Settlement suggestion

    In addition to monetary damages, request that the city:

    - Terminate the involved officers For Cause.
    - Fire the mayor and have him promise never to run for public office. (If there is no statute on the books that would permit the mayor to be terminated, don't worry. Clearly neither he nor the police really care what the law says, so just be sure he signs in the settlement not to contest the termination.)

     

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

  5.  
    icon
    AricTheRed (profile), Jun 13th, 2014 @ 10:28am

    Made me think of Austin Powers.

    Set the Scene.

    Dr Evil in his volcanic island lair...

    the Secretary General of the UN on the big viewer..

    UN Sec Gen- "What do you want Dr. Evil? Name an amunt that's affordable without being insulting."

    Dr. Evil- "One MILLION dollars!"

    UN Sec Gen- with everyone else laughing behind him... "That's all? One Million, you sure have been gone for a long time Dr. Evil...."



    They still don't get it do they?

     

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

  6.  
    icon
    Mason Wheeler (profile), Jun 13th, 2014 @ 10:29am

    Re:

    I was actually wondering about that. What does "Trill" mean in this context anyway. I assume it's not meant to conjure up a mental image of the mayor with a series of spots running down his neck...

     

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

  7.  
    icon
    Hot Corn (profile), Jun 13th, 2014 @ 10:39am

    at least under New York law, the arrest was valid

    There's actually nothing surprising about Twitter parodists being viciously tracked down by the police, because if we don't speak up for everybody's rights, we better be ready for our own rights to be trampled on when we least expect it. It starts with criminalizing deadpan satire in the form of "Gmail confessions," and from there it moves to criminalizing Twitter parodies. See the documentation of America's leading criminal-satire case at:

    http://raphaelgolbtrial.wordpress.com/

    Despite being widely reported on in the press, the case has been ignored by nearly every legal commentator in the country, so it's not at all surprising that the police now feel free to go after the creators of Twitter accounts embarrassing to wealthy and powerful members of the community, whether they be politicians, university presidents, or anyone else ordinary people might choose to mimic and mock on the Internet.

     

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

  8.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 13th, 2014 @ 10:40am

    Talk about a corrupt mayor, drunk on power and who hates the US Constitution.

     

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

  9.  
    icon
    Capitalist Lion Tamer (profile), Jun 13th, 2014 @ 10:46am

    Re: Re:

    In this context (and this context means the surrounding tweets before the account was yanked -- which included hanging out with hookers and consuming copious amounts of drugs), "trill" basically means "keeping it real." Which, of course, requires more context...

    here's the Urban Dictionary:

    http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Trill

    An adjective used in hip-hop culture to describe someone who is considered to be well respected, coming from a combination of the words "true" and "real".

    So... Mayor Ardis is stating his street bonafides.

    (I realize this answer will probably raise even more questions. My apologies in advance.)

     

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

  10.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 13th, 2014 @ 11:01am

    Why are people who had nothing to do with this matter (those who comprise the "City of Peoria") being sued when the actual perpetrators can be identified with specificity?

     

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

  11.  
    icon
    art guerrilla (profile), Jun 13th, 2014 @ 11:17am

    Re: Re: Re:

    that's twee as fuck...

     

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

  12.  
    icon
    John Fenderson (profile), Jun 13th, 2014 @ 11:23am

    Re: Re:

    "Trill" means a quavering or warbling sound. I've never heard the mayor speak, but I assumed it was an insult of his vocal qualities.

     

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

  13.  
    icon
    Coyne Tibbets (profile), Jun 13th, 2014 @ 11:45am

    Here's wishing the ACLU *could* sue them

    The media says the ACLU is suing them, but that's really not true: the ACLU is actually suing us taxpayers. We're the ones who will pay.

    The officers and the mayor will lay low while the case is in litigation because, "We can't discuss a case in litigation."

    After a three year battle, the taxpayers will lose with a huge settlement being made to the victim. The settlement will include an agreement that the city, the mayor, and the officers "admit no wrongdoing".

    Then the mayor will hold a press conference in which he bemoans our litigious society, and how people like Mr. Daniel get rich at taxpayer expense. Media bobble-heads will bobble and repeat his statements verbatim, and somehow will neglect to mention the mayor was ever in the wrong.

    Then, when someone else criticizes the mayor, he'll do the same all over, perhaps with variations. Nothing changes, except the taxpayers get their wealth handed over to the victims of the mayor's abuses.

    So it goes, with our "representatives" and public "servants" doing whatever they want, because there is no penalty for them.

    So how could it change? Instead of these endless, ineffective civil lawsuits, we need to start filing criminal charges against these jerks. It gets you less money, but watching them try to stay out of jail would at least be much more entertaining. And, maybe...just maybe...they would think twice the next time.

     

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

  14.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 13th, 2014 @ 11:49am

    i should bloody well think so too! this attitude of 'i am rich, i am famous, i move in the right circles, i can get away with anything' is going back to how it was decades ago! everyone is supposed to be equal especially under the law but that especially is disappearing extremely quickly and allowing those in the groups mentioned to do whatever the hell they like with no consequences! it isn't just in the USA but it is the instigator, in my opinion and is not just encouraging others to do as it does, it is forcing them to! this corporate world domination has been tried before and failed. this is another try at that and it must fail, just as the others have. if it doesn't, be prepared for the shitstorm that will come with it people! and once in, it's going to be harder to shift than any enemy to date because all the groundwork, all the surveillance methods are in place, so no one will be able to do anything without it being known!

     

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

  15.  
    identicon
    The Mayor, Jun 13th, 2014 @ 11:50am

    This wouldn't be a problem now, if those wuss cops had followed orders. Don't they understand English? I said, "Shoot to kill," damn it!

     

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

  16.  
    icon
    HegemonicDistortion (profile), Jun 13th, 2014 @ 11:59am

    Since these warrants should never have been issued, can his roommate have the evidence against him (to wit, his weed stash) excluded?

     

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

  17.  
    identicon
    Applesauce, Jun 13th, 2014 @ 12:05pm

    Re: Here's wishing the ACLU *could* sue them

    While I agree with Coyne Tibbets:

    OTOH, the taxpayers SHOULD be the ones who pay. They elected this bozo, they are currently failing to remove him, they don't even care enough to mobilize any real protest. The taxpayers are absolutely responsible, they absolutely should be the ones who get screwed by any settlement.

     

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

  18.  
    icon
    That One Guy (profile), Jun 13th, 2014 @ 12:47pm

    Re: Re: Here's wishing the ACLU *could* sue them

    I'll never get why some people are so against punishing those that did the action. The mayor is the one who ordered the police to toss the guy's house, the police are the ones who did it, but according to your logic the public is the one who needs to be punished.

    I know society really sucks as far as the whole 'personal responsibility' thing goes, but what exactly is it about public officials and police that makes them so untouchable, so immune from criticism and punishment, that the blame and punishment always needs to be shunted off to the public, leaving those actually responsible untouched?

     

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

  19.  
    icon
    madasahatter (profile), Jun 13th, 2014 @ 1:00pm

    Re: Settlement suggestion

    Criminal charges for sedition are appropriate for His Dishonor and criminal cronies.

     

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

  20.  
    icon
    John Fenderson (profile), Jun 13th, 2014 @ 1:17pm

    Re: Re: Re: Here's wishing the ACLU *could* sue them

    "I'll never get why some people are so against punishing those that did the action"

    I don't think anyone is. However when it comes to things like this, there are a number of factors that make direct punishment in this sort of thing problematic and often very unwise.

    Besides, the problem isn't those particular people. The problem is that the system hires those types of people. Fining them directly won't change the agency's hiring practice or standard of conduct.

    The taxpayers (us) are the ultimate bosses. That taxpayers get stung when our employees misbehave is logical and a good thing. It makes us actually care and, maybe, start doing our job.

     

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

  21.  
    identicon
    mcinsand, Jun 13th, 2014 @ 1:46pm

    'affordable?' I certainly hope not!

    >>but one imagines those named are now in the process of
    >>nailing down a settlement amount that's affordable without
    >>being insulting.

    I hope that the court laughs in the face of any 'affordable' amount. These people abused their authority in a manner that should be criminal, if it isn't already. They abused the trust that the public put in them. And they trashed the town's legal process.

    I am sensitive to today's economic struggles, but some people beg for punishment. I do hope that all involved lose jobs, homes, and any monetary accounts. Not only that, but I hope that any of the mayor's offspring are so ashamed to be associated with such a piece of filth that they change their last names.

     

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

  22.  
    icon
    That One Guy (profile), Jun 13th, 2014 @ 4:53pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Here's wishing the ACLU *could* sue them

    However when it comes to things like this, there are a number of factors that make direct punishment in this sort of thing problematic and often very unwise.

    So two-tier 'justice' then, where if I do X, I get punishment X, but if someone in authority does X, they might get punished, but it's likely to be significantly watered down or have the punishment transferred to someone else.

    Oh yeah, justice at it's finest. /s

    Besides, the problem isn't those particular people.

    Did they do what they were accused of? Then yes, at least in this case they are the primary problem.

    The problem is that the system hires those types of people.

    Hires them and then makes it impossible to hold them accountable for their actions like a regular person would be, allowing them to do as they please, knowing that even if they get caught someone else will be footing the bill.

    Fining them directly won't change the agency's hiring practice or standard of conduct.

    I disagree, it may not change the 'hiring practices', but if people like that, no matter the position, knew that they would be held personally responsible for their actions, and couldn't just leave the public with the bill, you can bet their 'standards of conduct' would see a pretty significant change.

    It makes us actually care and, maybe, start doing our job.

    The first step of which should be holding the guilty parties responsible for their actions.

    Look, I agree that people holding public office, or 'serving the public' like the police ideally answer to the public, but I fail to see how that absolves those same people from being held accountable for the actions, why they should get away without a scratch and all the blame and punishment should be placed instead on the public, as if they should have known beforehand what the 'public servants' were going to do, and therefor shoulder the blame for not stopping it, rather than the blame and punishment landing on the ones who committed the actions.

     

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

  23.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 13th, 2014 @ 5:15pm

    There is nothing that prevents victim from suing FBI for negligence by allowing this BS to happen. They don't like to be co-defendants of some small time corrupt officials. Vitims may also subpoena NSA records on assailants. Should be lots of fun.

     

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

  24.  
    identicon
    Sinusoid, Jun 13th, 2014 @ 9:49pm

    "Not so funny now is it, Funny Man?"

     

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


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
Advertisement
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Chat
Techdirt Reading List
Advertisement
Recent Stories
Advertisement
Support Techdirt - Get Great Stuff!

Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.