Mayor Ardis Defends Police Raid, Complains That Parody Twitter Account Used Up All The Free Speech

by Tim Cushing
Techdirt
Apr. 24, 2014

As we recently covered, Jim Ardis, the absurdly thin-skinned mayor of Peoria, IL, got the boys in blue to raid a house over a parody Twitter account that portrayed him as a.) a possible drug user, b.) a possible patron of the world's oldest profession and c.) "trill as fuck." Peoria's Finest have never been finer, deploying seven plainclothes officers to nail a dangerous tweeter whose Ardis-mocking account had been shut down by Twitter weeks before. Bonus: drugs were discovered during the raid, which meant the cops could at least declare victory over marijuana use, if not the internet itself.

Now, the fact that the account was already suspended suggests Ardis had previously contacted Twitter about the unflattering parody. So, this next move was overkill. Why would a mayor do such a thing? Because Mayor Jim Ardis believes the First Amendment is zero sum.
"I still maintain my right to protect my identity is my right," Ardis said in an interview with the Journal Star before the council meeting.

"Are there no boundaries on what you can say, when you can say it, who you can say it to?" Ardis said. "You canít say (those tweets) on behalf of me. Thatís my problem. This guy took away my freedom of speech."
Presumably prior to this awesome show of force, the mayor had been forced to sit quietly with his hands folded on his desk. But now that he's stomped on someone else's First Amendment rights, he can finally freely speak.

But those official bootprints across the back of five Peoria residents aren't going to leave lasting marks. The Peoria Journal Star reports that no charges will be brought against the Twitter account holder.
A review of state law indicates the account holders of now-shutdown Twitter account, @peoriamayor, didnít break the law because the actual crime alleged, ďfalse personation of a public official,Ē has to be done in person, not over the Internet or other electronic media, said Stateís Attorney Jerry Brady.

"At this time, no, because subsection (b) doesnít include the use of electronic media," he said.
There are also questions as to whether the unrelated drug charge will stick because, well, it's completely unrelated. The warrant used to raid the house appears to be on legally shaky ground already, and its supposed purpose was to effect arrests and seize evidence related to a Twitter account, not root around until something better presented itself. But it could be weeks before that part is sorted out. The States Attorney says it's not uncommon for search warrants and affidavits to take "several days to weeks" to arrive at his office. (Must send these via trans-Atlantic steamer, I guess...) One imagines documents related to this case will take longer than usual.

Meanwhile, the population of Peoria, along with the city council, is extremely angry that Ardis abused his position. A long, heated discussion of this incident included members decrying Ardis receiving preferential treatment from the Peoria PD, as well as generally lamenting how his actions have turned Peoria into a national laughingstock.

Ardis, however, seems unfazed. He still firmly believes he did nothing wrong. The problem here is everyone else, starting with the media.
"Youíre the ones responsible for getting full information, but not to spin it in the way you want to spin it," Ardis said to a Journal Star reporter. "To make us look stupid."

"Itís your responsibility to put actual information out there and cover both sides. Not to opine. And that didnít happen. Clearly, that didnít happen."
Hey, Ardis. Only one person can make you look stupid, and he's that person up there claiming the First Amendment can't be evenly divided among several people. The actual information is out there. And it all adds up to Ardis not being able to take a joke, ordering cops to arrest people he doesn't find funny, and complaining about "suddenly" being universally reviled.







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