If you live in Peoria, Illinois, you'd better watch what you tweet about the mayor. Rather, you'd better watch what you tweet as the mayor from a parody account.
City police performed a search operation at a Peoria home on Tuesday, confiscating mobile phones and computers said to have a connection to the @PeoriaMayor Twitter account–an account that has been suspended for weeks.
Before Twitter suspended the account, however, it was a criminal operation which saw anti-government individuals falsely impersonating an official for nefarious purposes.
Or, a Twitter account with a few dozen followers that made a few dozen joke tweets about the Mayor. You know, whatever.
Here's what happened to the residents of the home after the seizure, according to the Peoria Journal Star:
Three people at the home were taken to the Peoria Police Department for questioning. Two other residents were picked up at their places of employment and taken to the station, as well.
One resident — 36-year-old Jacob L. Elliott — was booked into the Peoria County Jail on charges of possessing 30 to 500 grams of marijuana and possessing drug paraphernalia, but no arrests were made in connection with the Twitter account.
“They just asked me about the Twitter account, if I knew anything about it,” said Michelle Pratt, 27, a resident who was in the shower when officers first arrived at the front door. “They brought me in like I was a criminal.”
Pratt, who is Elliott’s girlfriend, said she spent more than three hours alone in an interview room before being questioned by detectives. One other resident, who declined to be identified, said he spent considerably less time in custody but was subject to the same type of questions.
“They said they had a search warrant and took all the electronic devices that had Internet access,” Pratt said. “They said there had been an Internet crime that occurred at this residence.”
So, what's the big deal with the Twitter account? Apparently, whoever operated it used the platform to "pose" as Peoria Mayor Jim Ardis (profile pic, listed email address and all), making outlandish tweets about sex, drugs, and rock n' roll (maybe not rock n' roll). At one point, the account holder updated the profile info to clearly indicate that it was, indeed, a parody account. You know, just in case the 50 people following the account thought that the Mayor was actually tweeting about bitches and coke.
Peoria's police chief said that he's unconvinced that the account was obvious parody.
As stated above, no arrests have been made in connection to the Twitter account, although, if the police ever find the culprit, he/she could be subject to a year in jail and a $2,500 fine–for impersonating a public official, a misdemeanor.
Just fightin' the good fight.
Image via PeoriaGov