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
    That One Guy (profile), 13 Jun 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.

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