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Civil Rights Suit over Absurd Peoria Twitter Raid Hits Federal Court

A mayor's outrage over parody will likely cost city.

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Not this guy again.
Peoria Mayor's Office

Everybody remembers the time Jim Ardis, mayor of Peoria, Illinois, had his police raid a guy's house because the guy was impersonating him in a Twitter parody account, right? The news went nice and viral last summer after police confiscated the guy's computer equipment, iPhones, and Xboxes and charged another person at the home with possession of marijuana.

The victim, by which I mean Twitter account owner Jon Daniel, not Ardis, did not ultimately face any charges because he did not break any actual laws. Ardis did not pursue a route of contrition, but rather doubled down over the whole thing when the story went wide, insisting that his "freedom of speech" had been taken away by the parody online version of him.

With the backing of the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, Daniel has filed a federal suit against the city of Peoria, claiming his civil rights were violated by the raid. Arguments in the case are scheduled to kick off today in Peoria. From the Associated Press:

Daniel says his parody Twitter account was protected speech. In crude language, the tweets talked about sex, drugs and alcohol. 

"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," Daniel said in a written statement last year. "If the mayor was concerned, all he had to do was tell the public that this was not his account and not his words, rather than involving the police."

The Twitter account was set up in late February or early March 2014 under the handle @Peoriamayor. It included a photo of Mayor Jim Ardis, his city email address and a bio saying he enjoyed serving the city. A few days later he labeled the account a parody, something Twitter requires.  It had about 50 tweets and as many followers.

Then, of course, the raid on Daniel gave Ardis a lot more attention than some little Twitter account and made him look even dumber than some silly tweets pretending he was high.

Peoria is asking for the case to be dismissed.  According to the Peoria Journal Star, the city has spent $50,000 defending itself from the lawsuit so far.

(Hat tip to Mark Sletten)

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  1. …the raid on Daniel gave Ardis a lot more attention than some little Twitter account and made him look even dumber than some silly tweets pretending he was high.

    Free press is something you just can’t buy.

    1. [Narrows gaze at Fisty in Swiss fashion]

    2. This is called the “Barbara Streisand Effect,” whereby taking action to suppress speech ends up calling more attention to the speech in question. For an interesting illustration of it, see the documentation of America’s leading criminal satire case at:

      http://raphaelgolbtrial.wordpress.com/

      The appeal of that case, incidentally, is now in federal court in New York (apparently as of today). It remains to be seen, of course, whether anything comes of the appeal, or whether the “cultural establishment” of free speech bloggers will continue to ignore the case, leaving criticism of it confined to the criminal-defense-lawyers-blog sphere. For an example, see:

      http://www.saratogacountycrimi…..sment.html

  2. Did his use of LEOs to enforce his petty whims require a warrant signed by a judge?

    1. They used a law against “impersonating a public official” that did not apply to this case to get the warrant signed.

  3. I yam tinkled pink to see Mayor Jim Ardis of Peoria getting more press again.

    Mayor Jim Ardis of Peoria is just the kind of craptastic douchebag we need to see getting more press.

  4. Ardis [insisted] that his “freedom of speech” had been taken away by the parody online version of him.

    What is his “freedom of assembly”, chopped liver?

  5. Jim Ardis must be an idiot.

    I can see how private parties might sue someone for defamation for impersonating them, but parody of public officials is held at a different standard according to…everybody.

    Ardis should have sued the guy–at worst. If you, as a publicly elected politician, can sell to the jury and the court that voters shouldn’t be allowed to defame your character, then go for it.

    But if the people of Peoria reelect you after this, they deserve what they get.

    The people of Peoria should have mounted a recall election. They should work on recalling the judge that signed the warrant, too. They should work on getting whomever is in charge of the police fired. Why didn’t they tell the mayor they had important things to do?

    Can you imagine being a taxpayer and having to foot the bill for this idiot mayor’s shenanigans? I’d be tempted to move out of Peoria on principle!

    It’s bad enough that they have to pay for his salary.

  6. Sue their blipping ass off. I think he should be awarded $1Billion plus legal costs.

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