OK to Send SWAT Team In Over a Parody Twitter Account? Illinois Judge Says Yes
At Fix This Nation, we believe in the rule of law. It’s what keeps a society together. It’s what keeps us from constantly re-interpreting the Constitution to sway with relative moralities. That said, we don’t necessarily believe the police are right in every circumstance. The country is filled to the brim with brave men and women who choose to put themselves in harm’s way for the good of the citizenry, but that’s no reason to turn a blind eye when they abuse that power.
In Peoria, Illinois, that’s exactly what has happened. A guy named Jon Daniel made a mistake. Bored one night, he made an obviously fake Twitter account, posing as the Peoria mayor, Jim Ardis. He sprinkled the account with Tweets about drug binges and sex orgies, pushing it well beyond the point where any person with a working brain could possibly believe that it was the actual mayor. This isn’t Toronto, after all.
According to Illinois law, it is illegal to impersonate a public official. This law is in place for the same reasons it’s usually illegal to pass yourself off as a police officer. The government doesn’t want people taking advantage of others by presenting themselves as a legitimate member of authority. It’s designed to prevent scams and dangerous situations like criminals pulling victims over on a lonely road in the middle of the night. It’s not really designed to prevent parody.
Nonetheless, Mayor Ardis wanted the Twitter account shut down. Instead of contacting Twitter and using a lawyer to get what he wanted, he chose to send the police in to do his bidding. A 4-person SWAT team burst into Daniel’s house in April, looking for the man behind the parody. They found him, but they also found something else: Daniel’s roommate, Jacob Elliott, was found to have a bag of marijuana and various items of paraphernalia in his room.
The charges against Daniel have been dismissed. It turns out that prosecutors couldn’t quite wrap their heads around trying to convict someone of a humorous parody. After all, this ain’t North Korea, and we have a little thing called freedom of speech in this country.
The charges against Daniel’s roommate, however, are being pushed through. Despite the fact that the evidence against Daniel was confiscated during a wholly unrelated “investigation,” a Peoria judge has ruled that it is somehow admissible. For some reason, Daniel’s entitlement to protection against unlawful search and seizure has been suspended due to an overzealous mayor who obviously suffers from delusions of grandeur.
For his part, Daniel refuses to take his medicine like a good little boy. He’s gotten the ACLU involved and has filed a lawsuit against the town of Peoria for wrongful arrest.
As for the mayor? Well, Ardis is becoming familiar with a term people on the Internet refer to as the Barbra Streisand effect. By trying to forcibly suppress a single parody account, he’s given birth to 15 more. It’s the perfect punishment for any politician who confuses his role as public servant with his dreams of ruling over a fiefdom.