So is that all it comes down to, a little technicality, a possible difference between New York and Illinois law? I beg to differ: the New York case will clearly have an influence on related decisions elsewhere in the country, and its basic holding is that no kind of "free speech" argument avails against a law criminalizing electronically conveyed, first-person satire or impersonation that is too unclear or unsuccessful to qualify as parody.
This means, first of all, that "neither good faith nor truth is a defense" as the criminal court put it in New York, and secondly that criminal courts and juries will need to evaluate these tweets on a case-by-case basis, whenever prosecutors decide to seek indictments to protect the reputations of well-connected members of the community.
As for the plain view argument, this is another minor technicality. Maybe they opened the closet because they thought the laptop used to post the criminally satirical tweets might be hidden there. If they drop the evidence, it will be just to get rid of the case after all the public criticism it's received on sites like Techdirt, not because any so-called "rule of law" prevails in the American criminal court system.
I think it still exists somewhere on paper, bit it's been invalidated in New York, where "neither good faith nor truth is a defense" to criminal satire, which brings "you a parody over the line." See the case documentation at:
There was no abuse of authority, because there was probable cause. It doesn't have to be proven in court until the trial takes place. The "blurry line" exists in the New York case too, but if you are arrested and are found to cross that line, you will go to jail. As the judge said in that case, the criminal intent "brings you a parody over the line," and "neither good faith nor truth is a defense." See the documentation I linked above.
See my comment above. Your memory needs to be corrected: after a month of tweets, a statement was added that it was parody, probably because if it had not been added the account would have been in violation of Twitter's rules. Thus, for an entire month, the mayor was impersonated, arguably with the intent to harm his reputation.
Your interpretations of my other comments are interesting. Since I'm not impersonating anyone, I don't need to clarify the satirical intent of any poorly written statements I might choose to make. But you can see how unclear it can be when someone uses a deadpan tone to try and engage in mockery. From now on, everyone should be very careful when they "tweet" in anyone else's name, because they are risking arrest, prosecution, and jail.
It doesn't matter: as long as he didn't explicitly say it was a parody, this was a matter for a jury. No one would believe a distinguished academic department chairman had sent out "gmails" crudely confessing to plagiarism either. That was held to be a crime in the New York case, because the "confessions" were sent out with the intent to harm the reputation of the chairman. You do the deed, you do the time. That's the American way, and idiocy's got nothing to do with it.
As the New York Court of Appeals' decision in that case makes clear, deadpan, electronically conveyed satire can be criminalized in the United States. To avoid arrest, the authors of such "tweets" need, at a minimum, to overtly state that they are engaged in parody, otherwise they risk crossing the line into "criminal deceit." And let's not hear any First Amendment baloney, everybody knows this is a crime and there are limits to this Internet freedom junk. Here, someone posted misleading tweets that were highly damaging to the reputation of Mr. Ardis. Hence, there was probable cause to believe a crime had been committed.
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:
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.
Many famous intellectuals have used multiple aliases to "steer opinions." The NACDL amicus brief is far more to the point when it says that “if Schiffman and others like him feel aggrieved by online speech with academic value, they have adequate remedies in tort,” rather than in the criminal courts.
This being said, let's consider Golb's actual intent, which has been systematically obfuscated in media articles about the case (including, unfortunately, in Tim Cushing's otherwise excellent article). Indeed, Golb's intent was also obfuscated at the trial, since the prosecution concealed the pertinent evidence from the jury. Here is what we read in the most recent pleadings:
On August 4, 2008, Golb informed his brother that he had written “an article exposing [one complainant’s] plagiarism.” (SA-926). During the same period, he informed his mother of his concern that a “skewed pair of lecturers” would “egregiously misinform the public.” (SA-921). To counter this danger, he pointed out that his father, unlike the other lecturers, could give a lecture “at no cost to the museum.” (SA-921). The previous year, he had already explained to his brother that he believed his letters of complaint to UCLA faculty members would “embarrass” [another complainant] “by informing people of the truth (which many of them might not know).” (SA-990).
This would very much depend on the meaning of the term "intent to defraud," which is the central issue in the case. The prosecution would like to replace "defraud" with "deceive," and so far the courts have gone along with this. It's an extremely dangerous precedent, one that actually makes this seemingly trivial case into one of the most important criminal prosecutions in American history.
There is a basic misunderstanding in this article, one that is symptomatic of the unfortunate misrepresentation of the facts of this entire case in the media. The harassment charges had NOTHING TO DO with anybody being impersonated; rather, those charges criminalized anonymous (or pseudonymous) email complaints sent to various academics, including colleagues of Eugene Volokh at UCLA. They were cleverly used by the prosecution to poison the trial atmosphere by criminalizing Golb's entire Internet campaign. Volokh casually disguises this fact in his various pieces devoted to the case, and he should know better. For further information on the case, see the documentation at: http://raphaelgolbtrial.wordpress.com/
Deadpan satire, especially in the form of "Gmail-confessions" in the "name" of well-connected academic department chairs, should also be avoided. See the documentation of America's leading criminal satire trial at:
The NSA surveillance issue is no isolated anomaly; consider, along with some of Giorgio Agamben's works, the medical experiments famously conducted on helpless American prisoners by other governmental agencies. Luckily Mr. O'Brien's satire was "clear" enough for him to avoid being arrested, prosecuted under various pretexts, and sent to the Rikers Island penal colony. See the documentation of America's leading "criminal satire" trial at:
I agree your argument is interesting, but tricks of this sort are regularly used by folks like the Yes Men to out the alleged unethical conduct of others without people starting an Internet witch hunt against the tricksters.
From what I've read on the trial site, the prosecution was allowed, something like 170 times during the trial, to suggest, and elicit testimony, that Golb made "false accusations," while Golb was blocked from introducing any evidence of the truth of the accusations, because "neither good faith nor the truth is a defense."
In that light, I'm not so sure I would blame someone for playing an underhanded trick on a perpetrator of underhanded tricks who deserves it...