Monday, June 16, 2014

Free speech in Peoria?

YOU should think twice before setting up a Twitter account impersonating someone else.

Jonathan Daniel, 29, from Illinois found that out the hard way after police raided his house and arrested him over the account @peoriamayor which spoofed the town’s Mayor.

Twitter hosts thousands of accounts parodying athletes, actors and politicians. Daniel thought his account would be a good way to entertain friends.  “It was created to be a joke,” said Daniel, a father of two boys.  “I thought my friends would find it funny.”

His friends may have been amused but Peoria’s Mayor, Jim Ardis, was upset that the account suggested he was a drug addict and associated with prostitutes.

Mayor Ardis complained to the police prompting the April 15 raid on Daniel’s house to unmask him as the fake account owner.

Daniel’s house was searched and he was arrested with misdemeanour for impersonating a public official.

Lucky for Daniel, the State’s Attorney of Peoria County decided not to charge him.  Had he been charged he faced one year in prison and a $US2500 fine.

But it doesn’t end there. Daniel, a short-order cook at a local bar, is now suing the mayor and six other city officials for violating his constitutional rights.

“Political parody is a great tradition in the United States — from Thomas Nast to Jon Stewart,” said Harvey Grossman, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois and Daniel’s lead attorney.



Anonymous said...

If you can't do the time; don't do the crime. Identity theft is a crime. Trying to pass it off as a parody doesn't make it ok.

Anonymous said...

Anon 12:28,

Identity theft requires theft from a person. In this case, the current mayor's name was not mentioned. The account was set up as "peoriamayor" which clearly does not steal the identity of the current mayor.

The police raided the guy's home on the basis of they didn't like what he was saying in a venue they could not control so they charged him with "impersonating a public official" even though they knew the requirements of the charge were not and could not be met.

This is a case of abuse of power and the guy is right to sue.

Bird of Paradise said...

Big Bad Brother here he comes with the United Nations with him