City, Mayor Sued Over Arrest of Parody TweeterBy: Josh Wolford - June 13, 2014
The ACLU has taken up the case of a Peoria, Illinois man who is suing the city and its Mayor for violation of his First and Fourth Amendment rights.
29-year-old Jon Daniel is suing Peoria Mayor Jim Ardis (shown above), the city manager, the assistant city manager, the city’s chief information officer, the former chief of police, and two detectives.
You may or may not remember the story that led to this lawsuit. We reported on it back in mid-April, after police raided Daniel’s home following a weeks-long investigation.
This big crime that led to that search was the operation of a parody Twitter account (@peoriamayor), the target of which was Mayor Ardis. The city managed to get Twitter to suspend the account, but still pursued its creator (Daniels). When they finally raided his home in April, the story went national.
The First Amendment violation allegations stem from the police investigation into Daniel’s identity, and the Fourth Amendment violation came when police raided his home as part of the investigation.
At the time, we noted that the account was relatively small – having only a few dozen followers and even fewer tweets. The tweets made outlandish, and often profane statements about the Mayor, supposedly as the Mayor.
But not really, of course. Not only was it a clear parody account, but profile was updated to explicitly state that fact – presumably to clarify things for the 50 people following the account who thought that the Mayor was actually tweeting about bitches and coke.
At the time of our reporting, police had yet to release the details about the Twitter account holder. According to the ACLU, in the weeks following the raid that resulted in a good amount of seized property, Daniel was arrested and detained (and then released after lawyering up).
“The joke of the account was to have my fictional mayor saying things that no one would possibly think that Mayor Jim Ardis would say,” according to Jon Daniel, the plaintiff in the lawsuit against the City. “If the Mayor was concerned, all he had to do was tell the public that his was not his account and not his words, rather than involving the police.”
That probably would’ve worked. Or, you know, let it go because adults (and Mayors especially) have better things to do than worry about parody Twitter accounts.
Anyway, Ardis and his officials decided to go all shock and awe – and now they’ve pissed off the ACLU.
“Political parody is a great tradition in the United States — from Thomas Nast to Jon Stewart,” said Harvey Grossman, legal director for the ACLU of Illinois and the lead attorney representing Mr. Daniel. “In a number of public statements, the Mayor and Peoria officials have been unapologetic about their activities. The only way to hold these government officials accountable is to have a federal court rule that their actions violated the fundamental constitutional rights of our client.”
Daniel and the ACLU are asking for and admission of right violation, and injunction against future First Amendment violations, compensatory damages, punitive damages, and fees. You can read the entire lawsuit here.
Image via PeoriaGov