Peoria, Illinois Mayor Orders Police Raid Over Parody Twitter Account

Chris | InformationLiberation
Apr. 18, 2014

Peoria, Illinois Mayor Jim Ardis reportedly ordered a police raid on the supposed home of a Twitter user who ran a parody twitter account which "impersonated" him.

From the Journal Star:
PEORIA — Police searched a West Bluff house Tuesday and seized phones and computers in an effort to unmask the author of a parody Twitter account that purported to be Mayor Jim Ardis.

The account — known as @Peoriamayor on the popular social media service that limits entries to 140 characters — already had been suspended for several weeks when up to seven plainclothes police officers executed a search warrant about 5:20 p.m. at 1220 N. University St.

Three people at the home were taken to the Peoria Police Department for questioning. Two other residents were picked up at their places of employment and taken to the station, as well.

One resident — 36-year-old Jacob L. Elliott — was booked into the Peoria County Jail on charges of possessing 30 to 500 grams of marijuana and possessing drug paraphernalia, but no arrests were made in connection with the Twitter account.

“They just asked me about the Twitter account, if I knew anything about it,” said Michelle Pratt, 27, a resident who was in the shower when officers first arrived at the front door. “They brought me in like I was a criminal.”

Pratt, who is Elliott’s girlfriend, said she spent more than three hours alone in an interview room before being questioned by detectives. One other resident, who declined to be identified, said he spent considerably less time in custody but was subject to the same type of questions.

“They said they had a search warrant and took all the electronic devices that had Internet access,” Pratt said. “They said there had been an Internet crime that occurred at this residence.”

Peoria Police Chief Steve Settingsgaard said officers were investigating the creator of the Twitter account for false personation of a public official. The offense is a Class A misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $2,500 and up to a year in jail.

The @Peoriamayor account began in late February or early March with a photo of Ardis and a bio that stated he enjoyed serving the city and included his city email address.

The content of tweets, or entries on the account, ranged from ambiguous to offensive, with repeat references to sex and drugs — and comparisons of Ardis to Toronto Mayor Rob Ford as Ford’s drug use while in office became public.

By about March 10, the bio of the Twitter account was changed to indicate it was a parody account.

Settingsgaard, however, said the intent of the account was not clearly satirical.

“I don’t agree it was obvious, and in fact it appears that someone went to great lengths to make it appear it was actually from the mayor,” Settingsgaard said in an email response to questions.

Ardis did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

By late March, the @Peoriamayor account was suspended by Twitter. It had about 50 tweets and just as many followers.

“A parody means it’s fake. It was even listed as fake,” Pratt said. “It was a joke Twitter account, and they searched the whole house.”
It was later confirmed the Mayor was personally behind the raid, and two idiot judges signed off on it:
PEORIA — Not long after learning about the parody Twitter account @Peoriamayor, the city’s real mayor, Jim Ardis, told police he wanted to find out who was publishing sometimes vulgar messages there, according to a search warrant filed Thursday.

[...]Police were informed of the account by Ardis on March 12. The tweets implied “Mayor Ardis utilizes illegal drugs, associates with prostitutes and utilized offensive inappropriate language,” according to an affidavit filed for the warrant.

He reported it to the police and said he didn’t authorize anyone to “create the account using his personal photograph or information from his elected office.”

“Additionally, he wished to pursue the incident,” the affidavit said.

On March 14, Judge Kirk Schoebein signed off on a warrant seeking subscriber information from Twitter. On March 29, two days after Twitter gave police the information they requested, Judge Lisa Wilson approved a warrant for Comcast to find out where the person who used the Internet to access Twitter lived. On April 1, Elliott was identified as the Comcast subscriber for 1220 N. University St., the affidavit said.

Two weeks later, Judge Kim Kelley approved the warrant to search the house. Police seized several iPhones, two Xbox video game consoles, computers, pieces of mail, drug paraphernalia, alleged marijuana and digital memory cards.
It's notable that if you read the warrant, it's entirely open ended giving police permission to seize entirely unrelated "drug paraphernalia" and drugs, despite the motivation for the warrant clearly being supposed "false personation."

Warrants historically were supposed to be extremely limited. They were not supposed to authorize open-ended raids of people's homes where police can charge them with any crime they happen to discover being committed.

Additionally, the quotes from the Twitter account presented to justify the warrant are the most blatantly obvious parody one can imagine.
"2 fucking things to get off my chest. 1. If you don't like Peoria and u wanna sit here and bitch about den leave. 2. Who stole my crackpipe?"

"I'm up all night woke up with pussy on my breath and bloodshot eyes and we got people talking bout life tweeting? Let me do my job u do urs"
Really? This is false personation?

That a judge would sign off on this open-ended joke of a warrant is extremely disturbing.

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