The latest in Peoria’s Twitter parody case

Yesterday, Illinois State’s Attorney Jerry Brady announced that he would not seek criminal charges against the man who ran a parody Twitter account purporting to be Peoria, Ill., Mayor Jim Ardis. That’s because there is no state law against impersonating someone online. (Even if there were, it’s likely that the Twitter account itself would fall under the First Amendment protections for parodying public figures.)

A few readers in Peoria have told me that Ardis told a local radio station yesterday that prosecutors will continue to pursue a charge for the small amount of marijuana that police found during the search. Given that the warrant was to search the home for evidence of a crime that doesn’t exist, the warrant and the search were illegal. I don’t see how that charge could possibly stand.

We’ve already discussed Ardis’s power complex issues here. But that isn’t the only troubling part of this case. It would also be interesting to hear the explanation as to why Judges Kirk Schoebein, Lisa Wilson and Kim Kelley all signed off on warrants to investigate a crime that doesn’t exist. And why the police then executed those warrants.

You may have heard the old expression “ignorance of the law is no excuse.” It means if you or I unknowingly break a law — in Peoria or anywhere else — we can still by charged, tried and convicted. Given that the criminal code at all levels of government is getting increasingly lengthy and complex, the demand that all citizens be aware of all the laws at all times (as well as any way that a prosecutor might interpret them) is an increasingly unreasonable demand. But the proposition gets all the more outrageous when you consider the fact that the people who are paid to know and enforce the laws aren’t held to the same standard.

I suspect that the targets of Ardis’s animus will get a settlement from Peoria, mostly because of the publicity the case has generated. It’s also possible that Ardis’s behavior through all of this could cost him in the next election. But if there is a settlement, it will in all likelihood be footed by Peoria taxpayers. It’s doubtful that Police Chief  Steve Settingsgaard, or Judges Schoebein, Wilson or Kelley will face any real consequences at all.

Radley Balko blogs about criminal justice, the drug war and civil liberties for The Washington Post. He is the author of the book "Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America's Police Forces."
Comments
Show Comments
Most Read
Next Story
Radley Balko · April 25