I am one member of a five person board. The opinions I express on this forum are mine only, and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the Escambia County Staff, Administrators, Employees, or anyone else associated with Escambia County Florida. I am interested in establishing this blog as a means of additional transparency to the public, outreach to the community, and information dissemination to all who choose to look. Feedback is welcome, but because public participation is equally encouraged, appropriate language and decorum is mandatory.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Freedom of Speech Part I: Political Satire is Protected Free Speech

The Mayor of Peoria, Illinois, was furious.  Someone was making fun of him via a fake twitter account, so the Mayor went to war.

What happened next is both weird and fascinating.

Chronicled in a well written story in today's New York Times--this is a lesson we in politics should all understand:  Just because a politician is a powerful elected official with thin skin and a massive ego--this person still cannot deny someone their right to free speech.  And using official taxpayer funded resources to go after someone who parodies elected officials ends badly for such a politician (and taxpayers too, unfortunately...)

From the Chicago Tribune's coverage of this story:

A Peoria man who repeatedly parodied the city's mayor on Twitter, then saw police raid his home in an unsuccessful attempt to bring criminal charges against him, has agreed to settle his lawsuit against the city, his lawyers and the city announced Wednesday.
Peoria will pay Jon Daniel $125,000 in damages and attorney's fees to settle the lawsuit brought in June 2014, according to the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, whose lawyers represented Daniel.
"I'm really satisfied with the outcome in this case," Daniel said in a 

statement. "I always thought the Twitter account was a joke for me and my friends. I never dreamed that it would result in my home being raided and me being placed under arrest."
Daniel created @peoriamayor using third-term Mayor Jim Ardis' official portrait in March 2014, following the theme of the numerous satirical accounts poking fun at celebrities, politicians and others. In the postings, Daniel portrayed "Ardis" as a crude politician whose social life involved drugs, alcohol and prostitutes.
The actions against Daniel unleashed a torrent of negative backlash directed at Ardis and the police, a controversy dubbed Twittergate by many in the central Illinois community. Daniel's lawsuit against Ardis and several city officials accused them of violating his First and Fourth amendment rights. Legal experts said political satire is a protected right of free speech.

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