Civil Rights Suit over Absurd Peoria Twitter Raid Hits Federal Court
A mayor's outrage over parody will likely cost city.
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)