Anthony Novak's parody of the Parma Police Department's Facebook page included what the Cleveland Plain Dealer describes as "obviously fake news posts," but this is not one of them: The Parma Police Department wants to charge the 27-year-old with a felony for creating the page.
The felony, disrupting public services, is punishable by up to 18 months in prison—a pretty steep penalty for irking local police officials. "We believe the material that Novak posted on the fake account crossed the line from satire to an actual risk to public safety," Lt. Kevin Riley told The Plain Dealer. "We presented the facts of this case and the investigation to our law department, and they agreed that Novak's actions were criminal in nature."
It is hard to see how. Novak's page is no longer online, but there is nothing in The Plain Dealer's description of of it that sounds like a crime. Here is one of the items:
The Parma Civil Service Commission will conduct a written exam for basic Police Officer for the City of Parma to establish an eligibility list. The exam will be held on March 12, 2016. Applications are available February 14, 2016, through March 2, 2016. Parma is an equal opportunity employer but is strongly encouraging minorities to not apply.
The test will consist of a 15 question multiple choice definition test followed by a hearing test. Should you pass you will be accepted as an officer of the Parma Police Department.
That's a riff on this actual notice from the Parma Police Department. In case such jokes were too subtle for some readers, there were other clues that the fake page was not legit. It was categorized under "community," as opposed to "police station, government organization," as the real page is. Under "About," it said, "We no crime." And then there are the "obviously fake news posts" that The Plain Dealer mentions but does not, alas, quote.
Lt. Riley complains that some of the material was "derogatory" and "inflammatory." Still not a crime. As far as "disrupting public services" goes, it's not as if Novak was intercepting emergency calls or otherwise interfering with police duties.
A grand jury will decide whether a criminal charge is justified. The Plain Dealer reports that Novak's lawyer "said that the case might have the potential to raise some First Amendment issues." It just might.