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.
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Filed Under: free speech, jim ardis, jon daniel, parody, peoria, peoria police
Companies: aclu

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  1. icon
    Coyne Tibbets (profile), 13 Jun 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.

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