Any regular tweeter knows that most of Twitter is made of up fake accounts. What’s one more, right? Well when that account is a fake account for the Mayor of Peoria, apparently the constitution comes into play.
Back in March, 29-year-old Jon Daniel decided to create a spoof account of the mayor in Peoria, Illinois to join the ranks of spoof celebrities, athletes and even other politicians. He created the account @peoriamayor with the intent of amusing his friends. Tweets of “I’m thinking it’s a tequila and stripper night” and “Gonna be up at [a local bar] wolfing down some wings. Come check me out I’ll be signing titty’s?” started showing up. And while his friends may have found the tweets funny, Mayor Jim Ardis did not.
He was so unamused he and several city officials arranged a raid on Daniel's home. Emails revealed that Ardis was trying to find a way to hold the line cook criminally responsible for portraying the mayor in poor lighting. And though as a result of the raid, someone else in the house was arrested for marijuana possession, Daniel was never charged.
This week, Daniel has filed a lawsuit alleging that by raiding his home, city officials violated his First and Fourth Amendment rights. Spoof accounts such as this one are protected as political speech, since they are intended as parodies and not intended to deceive.
However, Mayor Ardis doesn’t see it that way and on Thursday threatened his own defamation lawsuit. In a statement, he said that the account used his official photo, city logo, address, phone number and never specifically stated that the account was meant as a spoof. He said that Daniel stole his identity as mayor with his spoof and that his actions were not harmless. He also blamed the media for blowing up the whole thing. He stated, “The media’s continued claim that the content on the website amounted to harmless parody was as disgraceful as the comments themselves.”
The details of the raid are particularly damning however. Emails show that two days after the account went up city officials began searching for a way to charge him criminally. When a solution wasn’t immediately apparent, detectives began to search deeper. They eventually landed on a new statute that makes it a misdemeanor to impersonate a state official, which led to them getting the IP address of the computer from Twitter and then the account holder information from Comcast. All of which led them to raiding the home—three weeks after the account had been suspended— and taking computers, Xboxes, cell phones and bags of “leafy material.”
On the local and even national level, Ardis has received backlash for not being able to just drop it and ignore the account. Now that he’s looking into pursuing another form of legal action, he has to be expecting people to say, “enough is enough.”
Do you think he’s right to think about defamation and libel suits, or is he perhaps abusing his access to the legal system?