Twitter

Peoria Mayor's Unconstitutional Vendetta Costs Taxpayers $200,000

Jim Ardis was determined to shut down a Twitter parody and punish the man behind it.

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Office of the Mayor

Peoria Mayor Jim Ardis' illegal retaliation against a man who created a parody Twitter account using the handle @peoriamayor will cost the city $125,000 under a settlement announced last week. Jon Daniel set up the account on March 9, 2014, as "a joke for me and for my friends." The humor, as the ACLU of Illinois explained in the federal lawsuit it filed on Daniel's behalf, was based on the juxtaposition of "the mayor's clean-cut image" with "tweets conveying in a crude or vulgar manner an exaggerated preoccupation with sex, drugs, and alcohol." Examples:

Well today sucked balls so ya already know what tonights bout… smoking crack Rivvvveeeerrrmmennn style.

I'm thinking it's a tequila and stripper night it's jimmy baby

Im bout to climb the civic center and do some lines on the roof who's in.

Daniel's version of Ardis also sampled Kanye West lyrics:

Champagne wishes dirty white bitches I mean this shit is fucking ridiculous.

Gotta a condo round my wrist girl and im cashing out.

Ardis was not amused. He did everything in his power to shut down the Twitter account and punish the man behind it, instigating and egging on a police investigation that revealed Daniel's identity and whereabouts. On April 15, 2014, police searched Daniel's apartment, seizing mail, telephones, and computers. They arrested and interrogated him the same day, ostensibly on suspicion of impersonating a public official, a crime punishable by up to a year in jail. Local prosecutors declined to pursue the case because Daniel had not violated the relevant statute, which requires that the offense be committed in person.

Illinois courts also have interpreted the law as applying only to conduct intended to deceive the public. "Mr. Daniel had no intention of deceiving people into believing the account was actually operated by a representative of the mayor or the mayor himself," the ACLU complaint notes, "and no reasonable person could conclude such an intent from the content of the tweets or the Twitter account's profile page." Just in case, Daniel added the warning "parody account" to the profile page a few days after launching @peoriamayor. As Daniel's complaint explains for the benefit of possibly Twitter-unsavvy judges, this sort of thing is not exactly unheard of:

There are many parody accounts, which often use pictures of the person they are parodying in their profile, including of Barack Obama (@ThePresObama), sports figures (@drunkcutler), and local politicians (@MayorEmanuel). These accounts are often, but not always, marked "parody" or "fake" in the biography. Twitter explicitly allows parody accounts, and permits them to be explicitly designated as such. Twitter also marks with a "check" the real accounts of certain influential people. See e.g.@RahmEmanuel. Daniel's parody was not unusual in this flourishing on-line community.

Despite these embarrassing facts, which indicate that Ardis sought to jail Daniel for nothing more than speech that offended him, the mayor initially defended the investigation, search, and arrest, noting that a local judge had approved all the necessary warrants. "We took every step in accordance with the law," the mayor's lawyer told Ars Technica in August 2014. "They appropriately went to the court to obtain warrants. The court reviewed the statute and evidence and made a determination. In the end, that's a judge's determination to issue a warrant or not. It's not unreasonable that a person would look at that statute to see if there was a violation."

While the judge obviously deserves blame for rubber-stamping these warrants without considering whether police were alleging an actual violation of the law, this unconstitutional vendetta was initiated by Ardis because he couldn't take a joke. As ACLU attorney Karen Sheley observes, "Hurt feelings do not free government from the responsibility of respecting Mr. Daniel's freedom of speech and freedom from being arrested for that speech." It's too bad that Ardis is not personally on the hook for the $125,000 settlement, which will instead be covered by taxpayers. That's on top of at least $50,000 the city already had spent defending against Daniel's suit, and it does not include the police resources wasted on the case, which probably could have been used to pursue threats to public safety more serious than a bunch of sophomoric Twitter jokes.

The settlement agreement, which the Peoria City Council is expected to approve tonight, also requires the city to instruct police that "the First Amendment protects many forms of online speech, including Parody and Satire when the parody or satire is reasonably perceived." Sheley says "the directive makes clear that parody should never be the predicate for a criminal investigation and that the action against Mr. Daniel should never be repeated."

NEXT: Spit Take

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  1. Whacha wanna bet they reelect the silly bastard?

    1. How could he lose with that tough-on-crime image?

      1. My fellow Americans, let us all rise up in defense of the eloquent mayor of Peoria, a man of strength and dignity who is just the kind of leader that we need in this great nation; and in addition, let us all agree that the mayor of Peoria should have had this fellow prosecuted for a crime, even if technically speaking he did not actually commit a crime. Heck, in New York that Twitter account would have been a crime. See the documentation of our leading criminal satire case at:

        http://raphaelgolbtrial.wordpress.com/

        Indeed, what “reasonable person” would believe that a distinguished New York University department chairman, well known for his television appearances and lectures in a popular and controversial field, would open a Gmail account in his own nickname and send out a batch of messages accusing himself of plagiarism, linking a lurid article about his alleged misconduct and justifying it with statements such as: “this is simply the politics of Dead Sea Scrolls studies. If I had given credit to this man I would have been banned from conferences around the world.”

        1. P.s. it is an unfortunate and dangerous reality (one we cannot emphasize enough) that the satirical genre often expresses deep anger rather than humor; which is why it is so often confusing and troubling. Thankfully, we are all in the process of establishing legal norms that limit “parody” to light comedy, an excellent innovation that will help further the gentrification and dumbing down of America. Twitter has taken the lead with its requirement that parody be overtly declared as such, and our astute, culturally aware law enforcement officials will carry this further.

          A precedent for such norms is, of course, the case of the Letters of Obscure Men, an outrageous publication famously banned by Pope Leo X in 1517. Many of the subversive “letters” contained in that sordid collection were “signed” by leading European deans and dons of the time, insidiously fooling monks around Europe into believing that they were real, until the anonymous author’s “satirical” intent was clarified in an appendix to the second volume. There is much to learn from Pope Leo X’s bold handling of that episode in 21st-century America.

  2. Nah..Nae worries, mon. Peoria is just swimming in extra cash for things like this…

    *cringes*

    If this humorless scold runs again, I hope he gets 0.3% of the vote.

    1. In Spokane, WA where I live, we recalled a precious mayor about ten years ago. He was a closeted homosexual who was secretly meeting teen males on the Internet and grooming the under 18 year olds for his personal use later. He was later recalled after he refused to resign. That cost several hundred thousand dollars and abkut 25-30% of idiots still voted to keep him.

      As I always say, “People are stupid”.

    2. 0.3? He’s going to run as a libertarian?

  3. “Mr. Daniel had no intention of deceiving people into believing the account was actually operated by a representative of the mayor or the mayor himself, and no reasonable person could conclude such an intent from the content of the tweets or the Twitter account’s profile page.”

    Now if the mayor had been Marion Barry…

    1. Marion Barry IS a parody. I lived in DC during his trainwreck, and it couldn’t have been a petter parody of a political career if Mark Twain had written the script.

      1. Yeah, Mark Twain was a racist, so I can see him making fun of black politicians.

        /sarc

  4. I am the Mayor of Peoria, and I take offense at this article.

    DISCLAIMER: this comment is intended as satire. The author is not in fact the mayor of Peoria, but is in fact parodying the mayor in a lame attempt at humor. No animals were harmed in the writing if this comment, which is gluten free and contains no by peanut byproducts.

    1. Enough to put down the crackpipe?

    2. No animals were harmed

      How much wood could a wood chipper chip if a wood chipper could chip wood?

      1. It would chip an entire Forrest.

    3. but is it also non-GMO, fair trade, small batch, vegan, lo-cal and sustainable, huh well is it???

  5. That alt-text deserves a police investigation…

    1. Because it makes fun of lisping gays liking sailor food?

    2. He means wood alcohol.

  6. You know who else used the power of the state to stop satire and parody…

    1. Lincoln?

      1. Evil Cyborg Lincoln maybe……….

    2. President Obama ?

    3. But what he’s about to find out… is that true love wins in the end…

    4. The Ministry of Silly Walks?

    5. Queen Anne?

      (wikipedia)

      http://ow.ly/RW3fi

      1. Pantomime Princess Margaret?

  7. It’s too bad that Ardis is not personally on the hook for the $125,000 settlement, which will instead be covered by taxpayers.

    Well, maybe next time the taxpayers will learn their lesson and not elect a mayor.

    1. I love that idea. Why is that not an option? We should be able to vote positions “vacant” and leave them unfilled.

      1. but that would lead to chaos!

        /sarc

        1. *ahem* (mounts soapbox)

          …a lack of a strongly centralized government would lead to an uncivilized and barbaric anarchic un-society where material conditions give the control of the means of production to those who rape the fatcat-rapiest and unfairly alienate workers.

        2. To hell with voting libertarian and having one’s message be clearly understood.

    2. If you don’t vote, you have no right to complain. Or something.

  8. I wish someone would sue me. 🙁

    1. I wish someone would sue me.

      Like this?

      A Boy Named Sue

      1. No, I mean I want that sweet taxpayer payout.

  9. It is bad enough that the mayor is a fuckwit. Why did no one at the cop shop (or at the courthouse) point out to him that what he is doing is illegal and dumb and tell him to go home?

    1. probably because they are getting kickbacks in some form.

      1. Nah. That explaination is too exotic. They simply didn’t CARE. They are used to “the process is the punishment” and THEY aren’t going to be paying the settlement. THEIR prestige isn’t going in the toilet for this foolishness.

        1. Local prosecutors declined to pursue the case because Daniel had not violated the relevant statute, which requires that the offense be committed in person.

          The cops should have talked to them before they did their intimidation raid/arrest.

    2. I work with several city governments, and the real answer is most likely one of the two:

      1) nobody else was paying attention
      2) nobody knew it was dumb and/or illegal

      1. nobody knew cared it was dumb and/or illegal because FYTW.
        FIFY

  10. So how will this play in Peoria?

    1. Like business as usual, I suspect. The more I pay attention to it, the more local government begins to look like Homeowner’s Association politics, writ large. Everything’s fine until some idiot with a bee in his bonnet gets elected, and then here comes the circus.

      1. In my experience, HOAs are even worse than local governments. More direct power over people’s living situations, even less accountability…

      2. Yoi didn’t get the joke

        1. Good one.

    2. Which one? Luckily for those voters there are ten Peorias to hide among.

  11. Sotos said the city would’ve paid the his firm more than a half a million dollars in legal fees to his firm if the lawsuit made its way to court. He said that the $125,000ar settlement won’t cover all of Daniel’s legal fees, making this a win for the city.

    Seems unfortunate.

  12. It’s shocking that this vendetta ended at the prosecutor’s office. How did no other public official realize this was completely batshit? Nobody in the mayor’s office? Nobody at the police department? Not the judge or the judge’s clerk?

    1. It appears to have arrived at the DA’s desk after the publicity nightmare had begun. No one else had that benefit.

  13. Google pay 97$ per hour my last pay check was $8500 working 1o hours a week online. My younger brother friend has been averaging 12k for months now and he works about 22 hours a week. I cant believe how easy it was once I tried it out.
    This is wha- I do…… ?????? http://www.online-jobs9.com

  14. As a public service to Republican politicians like Jim Ardis–to help vent the hurtness of their delicate feelings–Reason ought to post online Butthurt Report Forms. Imagine that big bad twit was kicking sand in his poor little scowly-face! It’s a good thing there are ten towns named Peoria, so the good citizens can disclaim that Grand Old Poutybaby and direct inquiries elsewhere.

    1. The other republicans need to beat the shit out of Ardis. God knows I would.

  15. Wasn’t there some figurative woody/subpoena-y stuff around here a while back?

    These assaults on the First Amendment seem to be a regular thing lately.

    1. Well, everybody knows that the Bill of Rights is just there to make things hard for the cops to do their jobs. It was written by old white men who owned slaves, and, apparently, loved criminals.
      Besides, it was written like a hundred years ago! Nobody pays any attention to the BoRs anymore, what a nerd!

      1. He probably still has an iPhone 5, tool.

        1. Pfffttt!!!!! More like a 4S!

  16. I have it on good authority that Mayor Ardis, the judge who signed the warrants, the Peoria Chief of Police, and and the DA all enjoy gangbanging sheep in the back alley behind the Peoria civic center on a nightly basis. They also have a habit of drawing straws and running a train on the loser at 12:00 am every Friday night. Which brings new meaning to “making sure the trains run on time.”

    1. “I have it on good authority that Mayor Ardis, the judge who signed the warrants, the Peoria Chief of Police, and and the DA all enjoy being gangbanged by sheep in the back alley behind the Peoria civic center on a nightly basis. They also have a habit of drawing straws and running a train on the loser at 12:00 am every Friday night. Which brings new meaning to “making sure the trains run on time.”

      There. I fixed it for you.

  17. It is bad enough that the mayor is a fuckwit. Why did no one at the cop shop (or at the courthouse) point out to him that what he is doing is illegal and dumb and tell him to go home?

  18. I would suspect that the city has appropriate liability insurance, which likely will cover the award. Should there be a premium increase, or uninsured portion of monetary awards, bill the mayor.

    As to the role played by the police dept. , individual officers are not expected to be legal experts. Whether or not such slack can/should be cut for dept. management is an open question. As for the judge, strikes me that he should have known better.

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