City of Peoria owes Twitter user $125,000 after unjust arrest
Peoria, Illinois resident Jon Daniel was awarded $125,000 in a lawsuit against the city of Peoria, after being arrested for operating a parody Twitter account in the name of Mayor Jim Ardis.
In 2014, Daniel’s home was raided by police over his Twitter account, @Peoriamayor, claiming that he violated an Illinois law regarding the impersonation of a public official. During the raid, police seized the computers, phones, Xboxes, and iPads found in his home. Daniel was then briefly detained, and claimed upon his release that his fourth amendment rights were violated. Soon after his arrest, Daniel filed a lawsuit against the city with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Illinois.
The raid was initiated by the real Mayor Ardis after he felt the Twitter account was making him look bad. Daniel used the parody account to portray Ardis as a drug addict that spends his time with prostitutes. The parody account wasn’t helpful for Ardis’s image, but going after Daniel for operating the Twitter page was a very damaging PR move for the mayor. Making Daniel the subject of a criminal investigation over a social media page was seen as a major violation of his rights.
“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 again,” said ACLU lawyer Karen Sheley.
Should the city have allowed the raid on Daniel’s home over the parody account? Illinois law doesn’t allow anyone to impersonate a public official, but Daniel’s actions were clearly all in jest. The account wasn’t made to trick people into believing Ardis was actually doing drugs, but rather as a joke. Daniel said, “[I] always thought the Twitter account was a joke for me and my friends.”
Daniel has since revived the Twitter account under the handle @notpeoriamayor. Daniel’s parody account had very few followers when it was created as a joke for his friends, but after receiving public attention, it has been viewed by thousands of Twitter users.
Should parody be a crime? Did going after Daniel harm the Mayor’s image more than the Twitter account? Leave a comment or talk to me on Twitter @Karbowski_Devon.