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.

Hide this

Thank you for reading this Techdirt post. With so many things competing for everyone’s attention these days, we really appreciate you giving us your time. We work hard every day to put quality content out there for our community.

Techdirt is one of the few remaining truly independent media outlets. We do not have a giant corporation behind us, and we rely heavily on our community to support us, in an age when advertisers are increasingly uninterested in sponsoring small, independent sites — especially a site like ours that is unwilling to pull punches in its reporting and analysis.

While other websites have resorted to paywalls, registration requirements, and increasingly annoying/intrusive advertising, we have always kept Techdirt open and available to anyone. But in order to continue doing so, we need your support. We offer a variety of ways for our readers to support us, from direct donations to special subscriptions and cool merchandise — and every little bit helps. Thank you.

–The Techdirt Team

Filed Under: abuse of power, defamation, jim ardis, jon daniel, parody, peoria, trill as fuck


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  1. icon
    That One Guy (profile), 3 Sep 2015 @ 8:21am

    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.

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Make this the First Word or Last Word. No thanks. (get credits or sign in to see balance)    
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Insider Shop - Show Your Support!

Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Recent Stories

This site, like most other sites on the web, uses cookies. For more information, see our privacy policy. Got it
Close

Email This

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