Ruslan Sokolovsky Gets 3 And A Half Years Suspended Sentence And A Conviction For Playing Pokemon In A Church

from the pokemon-go-to-jail dept

Update: After doing some hunting around, we were able to dig up additional reliable source material that indicates that Sokolovsky's conviction, troubling on its own, carries a suspended sentence that will keep him out of jail. We are updating the title of the post to reflect that, but will keep the original post in full below this update. While Solokovksy is obviously pleased to not be behind bars, it remains troubling that he has been convicted, forced to delete his videos, and spent months between house arrest and a detention center throughout this ordeal.

The better part of a year ago we discussed the story of atheist activist Ruslan Sokolovsky. Sokolovsky became something of the sequel story to the now infamous Pussy Riot debacle. Russian police detained Sokolovsky and put him on house arrest for the crime of playing Pokemon Go in a Russian church and uploading a mildly snarky video about it to YouTube. The Russian Orthodox Church was fully on board with his being detained, stating in true Christ-like fashion that the real crime was his not respecting the Church and being an atheist blogger.

Now, these stories out of Russia are taking a back seat to some of the grander geopolitical games currently being played, but it's worth your notice that the Russian government isn't dicking around when it comes to suppressing the speech of its own citizens. As evidence of that, we can point out that Sokolovsky has received three and a half years in prison, simply for producing a video the Russian Church didn't like.

Sokolovsky posted a video of himself playing the augmented reality game late last year in a way that Russian authorities said showed “disrespect for society.” Prosecutors had asked for a sentence of 3.5 years in prison. The judge in the case, Yekaterina Shoponyak, granted the prosecutors their wish and gave the blogger a 3.5-year suspended sentence.

“In accordance with the expert evaluation, the court found blogger Sokolovsky guilty of inciting hatred, violating religious feelings and illegal possession of special technical means - a pen with a video camera,” the judge said, according to the Russian news agency TASS.

We'll get to the weird bit about the spy-pen in a moment, but we must first note that nobody reporting on this seems to understand how Sokolovsky's previous detainment on house arrest will be factored in to his multi-year sentence. Regardless, given the timeline of events, it seems clear that he will spend a fair amount of time behind Russian bars, simply for engaging in speech that wouldn't cause an American to blink twice. Put into the context of the overall discussion with some of the new American leadership's affinity for overseas dictatorial regimes, Western citizens need to start paying attention to the actions of those regimes. After all, it's not as though the American government hasn't recently engaged in its own play to bow at multiple altars in the name of decency and respect for faith. There's no equivalence to any of this...yet. But attention needs to be paid to the consequences of starting down that pious road.

As for the spy-pen with the camera built in, it looks somewhat like the Russian police or government decided to build in a bit of fictitious intrigue to paint Sokolovsky as a sneaky, sneaky guy.

Strangely, there’s some confusion about the charge that Sokolovsky possessed an illegal camera that was disguised as a pen. During the trial he reportedly said that not only was the pen not his, but that it wasn’t a camera at all, but instead just a light bulb. Today’s news of his sentencing didn’t clarify any of the questions surrounding this strange aspect of an already bizarre trial.

Regardless, it seems a trivial thing, given that it changes nothing about the "crimes" he was actually charged with, which were essentially upsetting the state church. A three and a half year sentence will certainly produce a chilling effect on speech. These are not the kind of values we want to be consorting with.


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  • icon
    Stephen T. Stone (profile), 11 May 2017 @ 12:11pm

    Minor correction

    His sentence was suspended; he is basically on probation, and if he screws up again, he will go to jail for the rest of his sentence.

    That said: Still fucked up that this is even a thing.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 May 2017 @ 12:24pm

    First Putin. Now Trump.

    Kim Jong-un is surely laughing his ass off.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 May 2017 @ 12:50pm

    What world do you live in? Seriously, Russia is purging gays, invading countries and you worry about a guy that got in trouble playing Pokémon?

    I guess you would have complained about Hitler's motorcade ignoring traffic signals too.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 11 May 2017 @ 2:48pm

      Re:

      What is "Russia" in your world?

      This story is about how problematic the russian legal system is. The others are signs of the government and the authorities in Chechnia? are acting on standards far below half the worlds standards.

      In USA the legal system is very powerful and fortunately factually inclined (even if many cannot afford to get justice). In Russia the court seems to free-style it quite a bit more. Ie. It would be very rare to see the prosecutors wish for punishment getting handed down and a magical pen appearing as part of the case. The judicial system in Russia doesn't seem to have as much freedom from the legislative branch as we are used to.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 11 May 2017 @ 4:03pm

      Re:

      Multitasking is difficult ... who knew?

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

    • icon
      Richard (profile), 12 May 2017 @ 2:31am

      Re:

      Well Turkey is purging anyone who Erdogan doesn't like (which can mean just about anyone).
      Turkey blatantly invaded Cyprus 43 years ago and is still there.
      Erdogan has made noises about claiming other Greek islands.
      He is also using Syrain migrants as a weapon against europe.

      and Turkey remains a member of NATO...

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

    • icon
      DannyB (profile), 12 May 2017 @ 6:20am

      Re:

      I don't think the guy got in trouble for playing Pokemon. That was merely the excuse.

      Just like the official reason, then backpedaling, then multiple reasons for firing Comey. The official reason(s) are a smokescreen because they can't publicly state the actual reason.

      Letting him go on probation is merely an extortion tactic. They can monitor him and hope to catch any others he communicates with committing thoughtcrime.

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

  • identicon
    Personanongrata, 11 May 2017 @ 1:54pm

    Those Dirty Rotten Ruskies are at it Again

    Now, these stories out of Russia are taking a back seat to some of the grander geopolitical games currently being played, but it's worth your notice that the Russian government isn't dicking around when it comes to suppressing the speech of its own citizens.

    it's also worth your notice that the US government isn't dicking around when it comes to suppressing the speech of its own citizens especially in the questioning of Trump administration political appointees and spokespersons.

    The italicized/bold text below was excerpted an news report titledWest Virginia reporter jailed after questioning U.S. health secretary found at the website reuters.com:

    A West Virginia journalist was arrested and jailed after following U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price down a hallway in the state's capitol building and peppering him with questions about healthcare policy, the reporter said.

    http://www.reuters.com/article/us-west-virginia-journalist-idUSKBN1862B6

    So much for free speech in the US of A.

    If only journalist Daniel Ralph Heyman had been standing in one of the governments free speech cages perhaps he would have been left unmolested for the temerity of calling out a question.

    We should concern ourselves with the mess within our own glass house before we go throwing stones at others in self-righteous indignation.

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

    • icon
      sorrykb (profile), 11 May 2017 @ 2:47pm

      Re: Those Dirty Rotten Ruskies are at it Again

      We should concern ourselves with the mess within our own glass house before we go throwing stones at others in self-righteous indignation.

      Alternatively, we could support fundamental human rights everywhere, including the U.S., on principle.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 11 May 2017 @ 6:08pm

      Re: Those Dirty Rotten Ruskies are at it Again

      In your rush to get to the holier than thou high ground you missed a lovely Techdirt story about that very thing, you twit.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 May 2017 @ 2:29pm

    Coming to Amerika

    If the Communist, I mean Democratic, Party has its way, we will suffer the same fate soon enough. All you have to do is gaze upon the world's largest tantrum being thrown by the left. They verbally and physically assault anyone who isn't "with" them. They burn immigrant's limos, smash windows of liberal corporations in an ironic fit of eating their own. Just look at the violence that breaks out when a conservative speaker visits a college campus. The left abhors free speech and freedom in general.

    This is why the lefts head long run for socialism and ultimately communism is a dangerous trend.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 11 May 2017 @ 2:44pm

      Re: Coming to Amerika

      If the Communist, I mean Democratic, Party has its way, we will suffer the same fate soon enough.

      Trump will save us!

      /s

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 11 May 2017 @ 2:52pm

        Re: Re: Coming to Amerika

        I believe the vote for Trump was not an outright signing on to his full agenda but a complete rejection of the direction the Communist, I mean Democratic, Party has taken. So in effect, he may save us.

        But the left has not given up, thus their tantrum. They must shut down any and all conservative speech. As is pointed out here many times, the solution to bad speech is more speech. But the lefts current agenda cannot be defended so speech isn't enough. Violence and intimidation is the result. Communists and Socialists have put 100+ million people in the ground for this very reason.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 11 May 2017 @ 4:04pm

          Re: Re: Re: Coming to Amerika

          You should seek professional help - seriously.

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

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 11 May 2017 @ 4:55pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Coming to Amerika

            Why, I'm not the one vandalizing property and assaulting people who have different ideas than me.

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

            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 12 May 2017 @ 8:40am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Coming to Amerika

              My comment had nothing to do with anyone who are "vandalizing property and assaulting people". Not sure what you are getting at. It is your rejection of reality that is a bit concerning.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 11 May 2017 @ 6:11pm

          Re: Re: Re: Coming to Amerika

          Communist is the free space on my right wing nutjob bingo card.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 11 May 2017 @ 3:03pm

      Re: Coming to Amerika

      Well I will leave you alone then. You cannot be left if I stay!

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 11 May 2017 @ 6:09pm

      Re: Coming to Amerika

      That's some weapons grade derp you're leaking there. I hope you got a haz-mat certificate for that.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 11 May 2017 @ 6:20pm

        Re: Re: Coming to Amerika

        It is interesting that the couple people that have replied have tried to be snarky but have nothing of substance to say. Proving my point perfectly.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 11 May 2017 @ 11:54pm

          Re: Re: Re: Coming to Amerika

          The kind of lizardmen level conspiracies you spouted? Discussing them on their merits is the definition of arguing with an idiot "He will drag you down to his level and beat you on experience.".

          Besides, if you exclude the ironic fallacy of Russia = communist (Strong sentensing based on hurting religious feelings is specifically a conservative criteria by definition), your comment is far off topic.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 12 May 2017 @ 8:44am

          Re: Re: Re: Coming to Amerika

          Logic fail

          The existence of snark proves nothing other than some amount of discontent.

          Lack of substance proves nothing other than a lack of substance exists. Lies of omission imply something but prove nothing.

          Lack of something does not prove it does not exist.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 May 2017 @ 4:07pm

    I know it's Russia, but the church sets law and sentencing?

    "not respecting the Church and being an atheist blogger"

    Wow, with him safely locked up I feel so much safer already.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 May 2017 @ 5:18pm

    Religion...

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

    • identicon
      Wendy Cockcroft, 15 May 2017 @ 2:44am

      Re:

      Philosophy...

      Ideology...

      Anything that causes people to cling like grim death to an ideal whether it is beneficial in practice or not should be treated with the same disdain as militant atheists treat religion. Is that fair?

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

  • icon
    McGyver (profile), 11 May 2017 @ 5:52pm

    This would be troublesome if Russia had ever been a democracy... But this is Russia you are talking about. Aside from getting a new flag, and rebranding themselves as the Russian Federation, nothing much freedom and human rights related has changed there since the old Soviet days.
    But then again the Republicans have kinda invited the Russians to participate in the workings of our government... So yeah, maybe we should be concerned about what they are doing to their citizens.

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

    • icon
      Richard (profile), 12 May 2017 @ 2:22am

      Re:

      Aside from getting a new flag, and rebranding themselves as the Russian Federation, nothing much freedom and human rights related has changed there since the old Soviet days.

      Huh - you really haven't been paying attention - even to the story.

      In Soviet days is was positively government policy to poke fun at the church - and much worse.

      There has been a huge reversal of this - and the Russian government is trying to recompense the church for all the damage it did in soviet days.

      Bear in mind that the church in question was built as a memorial to the murdered Tsar and his family - which makes it somewhat equivalent to a holocaust memorial in Germany.

      The Germans are rightly touchy about the holocaust and have some laws curtailing speech which can land you with a prison sentence for what might be regarded as innocent acts. The Russian now have a similar mindset about the past persecution of the church and the deaths of many Bishops, priests and ordinary believers. These people are typically symbolised by the murdered royal family - so this case has overtones that westerners probably mostly don't get.

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

    • icon
      Redback (profile), 15 May 2017 @ 3:48am

      Re:

      "nothing much freedom and human rights related has changed there since the old Soviet days" funny is America any better, racial fighting , hating whites. And blacks segregating themselves from the rest of your society.

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

  • icon
    Dark Helmet (profile), 12 May 2017 @ 6:34am

    Update

    Guys, I was able to get some source material this morning that made it it clear the suspended sentence works much like in the US, and that Solokovsky will spend no more time in prison as a result of it. I have added an update to the post and altered the title.

    As always, the comments and community here have been helpful. Thank you!

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

  • icon
    Redback (profile), 15 May 2017 @ 2:12am

    Respect is lost in America

    I find it funny that American's claim to free speech is something of a righteous belief, but show no respect for one another or institution's. Smack's of disbelief, and you the author of the article ,just can't see the hippocratic nonsense about russia. Russia not prefect but given a choice between living in russia or america ? Russia comes hand down for safety. How many people do you have in the jail system for the most minor crimes or this safe sanctuary city and states bullshit for illegal's !! please. Get your own house in order first !

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 May 2017 @ 1:12pm

    Russia is at war against gays. Had he been playing pokewomon, there would be no story.

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


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