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The sorry tale of Peoria’s mayor

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

* Nate Anderson has a great story, much of it generated by FOIAs, of how the mayor of Peoria hounded a Twitter user via the state’s attorney and the local police. Go read the whole thing. Part of his conclusion…

The case serves as a reminder of the true power of the state. Thanks to the Internet, even local cops can now track down random Twitter miscreants without leaving the office—something that would have been impossible in the days of anonymous handbills plastered to brick walls around town. And those local cops can get as much information about your life as even the FBI could glean in a major felony investigation.

In this case, Peoria police had complete details of Daniel’s Twitter account usage along with cell phones and computers seized from his house. In addition, the police swore out a fourth warrant on April 17—two days after the raid—for Daniel’s Gmail account. The warrant sought not just connection details, but all content in the account, including “any image file, document files, text files, and other stored files.” Police had broad latitude to search through anything they found. Between an e-mail account, a mobile phone, and a laptop computer, police can gain an almost complete window into someone’s life. Do we want them to have this much power simply to crack down on misdemeanors?

The state doesn’t always exercise this tremendous power under rigorous oversight, either. Though the apparatus of oversight was in place, the judges who signed off on the warrants never pushed back on them, even though the warrants misstated the day on which Ardis learned about @peoriamayor and even though one of them said that the offense in question was a “violation of child pornography laws” rather than the actual claim of “false personation.”

* Meanwhile, from the the ACLU of Illinois

The ACLU of Illinois now represents Mr. Daniel, the creator of the Twitter parody. Mr. Daniel, like other parodists, has a First Amendment right to post these tweets. He was engaging in a time-honored tradition of poking fun at public officials — even when the public official doesn’t like it. Because Mr. Daniel’s activities were protected, they should never have led to a warrant and search of his home. The police activity in this case was unnecessary and contrary to both the First and Fourth Amendment protections to which he was entitled.

In the coming weeks, the ACLU of Illinois anticipates bringing legal action in support of Mr. Daniel against those officials who are responsible for the violations of his rights. We hope this action will send a strong signal to all that wrongful use of the police power to suppress protected speech, even when it is critical or makes fun of public officials is an abuse of power and is not acceptable.

- Posted by Rich Miller        


49 Comments
  1. - Oswego Willy - Wednesday, May 14, 14 @ 2:03 pm:

    @DopeyPeoriaMayor - it’s ok to have paranoia. It’s ok to use every police and legal means necessary to stop the voices in my head. #BruisedEgoEqualsTatteringReputations


  2. - Ravenswood Right Winger - Wednesday, May 14, 14 @ 2:03 pm:

    One of the few times I’ll support the ACLU.


  3. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Wednesday, May 14, 14 @ 2:03 pm:

    Hurray for the ACLU.


  4. - Oswego Willy - Wednesday, May 14, 14 @ 2:06 pm:

    @DopeyPeoriaMayor - Oliver Stone just bought the rights to my side of the story. #MagicTweetTheory


  5. - wordslinger - Wednesday, May 14, 14 @ 2:10 pm:

    –In addition, the police swore out a fourth warrant on April 17—two days after the raid—for Daniel’s Gmail account. –

    Unbelievable, all the way around — the mayor, the cops..

    ..but what’s with these judges? Where did they get their law degrees, Toys R Us? For God’s sake, you don’t work for the police! How do you sign those warrants? Exercise judgement and provide a check on abuse of power!


  6. - CollegeStudent - Wednesday, May 14, 14 @ 2:10 pm:

    I motion that any and all fees and penalties incurred by the city as a result of this be docked from the pay and pensions of the Mayor, city manager, and police.


  7. - Anonymous - Wednesday, May 14, 14 @ 2:12 pm:

    why would the jackboot thugs fall into lock step with the mayor?


  8. - Oswego Willy - Wednesday, May 14, 14 @ 2:13 pm:

    @DopeyPeoriaMayor - the ACLU just called me. The message said they are repping the injured party in the “Tweetergate”. Thanks for taking me side! #ObliviousToTheConstitution #PeopleHaveRightsGivenByMe


  9. - charles in charge - Wednesday, May 14, 14 @ 2:13 pm:

    This whole thing is a disgrace, but it would be a true injustice if the State’s Attorney fails to drop the felony marijuana charge against the roommate.


  10. - Steve - Wednesday, May 14, 14 @ 2:13 pm:

    I hope the ACLU considers RICO , after all it appears more than one person is involved.


  11. - Precinct Captain - Wednesday, May 14, 14 @ 2:17 pm:

    Is it a surprise to people that judges approve warrants willy nilly? I thought this common knowledge. Far too often judges come from that same prosecutor-police nexus where they seem themselves as heroic protectors of the public, not as the arbiters of law and administrators of trials that they actually are.


  12. - Demoralized - Wednesday, May 14, 14 @ 2:17 pm:

    ==appears more than one person is involved==

    Yeah. Moe, Larry and Curly.


  13. - Anonymous - Wednesday, May 14, 14 @ 2:37 pm:

    question authority?


  14. - OneMan - Wednesday, May 14, 14 @ 2:37 pm:

    Don’t forget Shemp…


  15. - Wondering - Wednesday, May 14, 14 @ 2:42 pm:

    FUBAR… like others, not a huge ACLU fan but, wow, this is one where I hope they prevail and jackpot the stupid Mayor and coppers.


  16. - Anonymous - Wednesday, May 14, 14 @ 2:42 pm:

    is it to late for a recall?


  17. - wordslinger - Wednesday, May 14, 14 @ 2:43 pm:

    PC, I know what you’re saying, but in this instance it flabbergasts me that on four separate instances judges signed warrants to chase down a parodist.

    I assume Saturday Night Live has been on down in Peoria for a while.


  18. - Mr. Big Trouble - Wednesday, May 14, 14 @ 2:45 pm:

    Don’t forget Shemp…

    And Joe as well..


  19. - Anonymous - Wednesday, May 14, 14 @ 2:46 pm:

    do the right thing resign, quit or retire for everyone


  20. - Precinct Captain - Wednesday, May 14, 14 @ 2:47 pm:

    Two things popped in my head after reading the AT story:

    1) Dave Chappelle’s joke about police abuse, racial minorities versus the racial majority, and the news media

    http://youtu.be/VFHpvPwq2i8?t=8m38s

    2) David Simon, creator of The Wire and Treme on HBO and author of Homicide, on Baltimore Police pay phone surveillance in the 1980s in regards to the NSA scandal http://davidsimon.com/we-are-shocked-shocked/

    It seems people really don’t have a single clue as to the abuse and potential for abuse that exists in our law enforcement system. It also is apparent that people pay attention to these issues only when certain classes of people are the victims of the abuse.


  21. - OneMan - Wednesday, May 14, 14 @ 3:24 pm:

    The fact he can’t seem to understand this was a bad idea worries me the most….


  22. - Todd - Wednesday, May 14, 14 @ 3:25 pm:

    They used the magic words of chip porn to get passed the judges. When cops lie to get a warrant that is the real scary part - all over a twitter parody


  23. - wordslinger - Wednesday, May 14, 14 @ 3:28 pm:

    What’s “chip porn” or do I not want to know?


  24. - Fed up FF - Wednesday, May 14, 14 @ 3:32 pm:

    And this guy stands up with a group of mayors and says my champaign and caviar pension is why Illinois municipalities are broke? Excuse me Mr. Mayor but you sir are the reason why municipalities suffer by wasting precious taxpayer dollars on a ridiculous investigation.


  25. - A guy... - Wednesday, May 14, 14 @ 3:38 pm:

    It’d be better for this guy not to stand up and say anything about anything. The willingness to abuse authority and power is abhorrent. The next parodist will just be a heck of a lot more clever. Oh yes, there will be many, many more. A lesson was taught, but not the lesson intended. Dufus.


  26. - Skeptic - Wednesday, May 14, 14 @ 3:56 pm:

    “chip porn” — Integrated Circuits caught in compromising positions? People over-indulging on fried snack products? Obscenely good shots from just off the green?


  27. - vise77 - Wednesday, May 14, 14 @ 4:06 pm:

    All you “well, I don’t like the ACLU usually but now they are OK” people: You realize the point of the ACLU is to support people whom you may not like but still are deserving of the protections afforded under our Constitution, right?

    I mean, the ACLU isn’t a buffet where you are free to skip the beets or onions. It’s a full meal served at your table.


  28. - Oswego Willy - Wednesday, May 14, 14 @ 4:11 pm:

    The reality of a possible “state Senator Ardis”, was a very big dodging.

    Can you imagine this Dope at the state level, and speaking to Bills or whatever, and the blowback that sometimes follows?

    The Illinois Senate is better served with state Senator LaHood, and so is the SGOP.


  29. - todd - Wednesday, May 14, 14 @ 4:17 pm:

    Sorry Word, commenting from my phone — Child Porn


  30. - Plutocrat03 - Wednesday, May 14, 14 @ 4:27 pm:

    It’s OK to be loyal to your boss, but the Chief should have known he was going over the line on this one. If he had his people lie while requesting a warrant, he should be removed.


  31. - Raymond - Wednesday, May 14, 14 @ 4:30 pm:

    === even though one of them said that the offense in question was a “violation of child pornography laws” rather than the actual claim of “false personation ===

    That should prove to be an interesting deposition.


  32. - Angry Chicagoan - Wednesday, May 14, 14 @ 4:30 pm:

    We’re going down the road of Mexico here, a country rated “not free” for its press, behind most of the rest of even South America, largely because of the extent to which journalists and citizens are constrained from criticizing public officials through means exactly such as these — defamation suits, lack of oversight of law enforcement and so on — in combination with Mexico’s stricter anti-defamation laws.


  33. - Precinct Captain - Wednesday, May 14, 14 @ 4:35 pm:

    ==behind most of the rest of even South America==

    I do not think there is a danger of us or Mexico joining South America any time soon. At least from a geologic and geographic perspective.


  34. - Concerned - Wednesday, May 14, 14 @ 5:12 pm:

    When the Chief of Police publicly announces that he was proud of the investigation and that his force did nothing wrong, then we learn the police lied in the search warrant by invoking that they had evidence of child porn crimes (made up solely to scare a Judge into approving the warrant), that Chief has forfeited all credibility. He should also forfeit his job. That he hasn’t been fired yet means there are more rats in Peoria than just the clown mayor.

    I think the marijuana charge is being kept in place in some misguided attempt to try to justify all the pernicious behavior by the police that lead to the raid. Someone should advice the Peoria SA that two wrongs don’tr make a right.


  35. - Streator Curmudgeon - Wednesday, May 14, 14 @ 5:18 pm:

    Ardis’ “righteous indignation” routine as an excuse for this was something scary to behold. I don’t usually have much respect for the ACLU, but I hate bullies even more. Should be fun to follow.


  36. - wordslinger - Wednesday, May 14, 14 @ 5:19 pm:

    –then we learn the police lied in the search warrant by invoking that they had evidence of child porn crimes (made up solely to scare a Judge into approving the warrant), –

    If that’s the case, seems to me some prosecutor should be taking a look-see.

    What a mess, all because of a thin-skinned, humorless politician and a stooge of a police chief.


  37. - Leave a Light on George - Wednesday, May 14, 14 @ 5:23 pm:

    “……but what’s with these judges?”

    Most of the time, in my experience the judges depend on the prosecutor from the State’s Attorney’s office to keep bogus search warrant requests from coming before them.


  38. - steve schnorf - Wednesday, May 14, 14 @ 5:26 pm:

    at least in the beginning, you could have rather easily reached the conclusion the guy was impersonating the mayor, not parodying him-used the mayor’s name for the comments


  39. - Oswego Willy - Wednesday, May 14, 14 @ 5:36 pm:

    Let’s all remember;

    After the Twitter handle was already suspended, this Dope of a Mayor, Mayor Ardis, made sure all the legal and police muscle at his disposal would be, and was used, to infringe on the rights of ALL they felt were “involved”… in the parody.

    That…is the scariest part of all this; the using of those powers, well beyond Twitter itself shutting down the handle. The revenge against free speech, to make a point.

    Sickening.


  40. - DuPage Dave - Wednesday, May 14, 14 @ 5:53 pm:

    I hope people take a moment to realize that this type of stuff happens every day in this country- that police and prosecutors lie and judges sign the paperwork anyway. That evidence is manufactured to get the person someone wants to get, not to serve justice. This particular case is so transparently stupid that it’s tempting to treat it all as a joke. But sadly it’s not.


  41. - charles in charge - Wednesday, May 14, 14 @ 6:04 pm:

    –at least in the beginning, you could have rather easily reached the conclusion the guy was impersonating the mayor, not parodying him-used the mayor’s name for the comments–

    Really? You think ANYONE could have reasonably believed those tweets were actually coming from Jim Ardis–or even that the person behind the account seriously intended to create that impression? Who exactly was confused? Reading the public records, it doesn’t seem like the mayor or the police ever believed that to be the case. From the very get-go, they were talking about “defamation,” not false personation.


  42. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Wednesday, May 14, 14 @ 8:05 pm:

    Charles is correct.


  43. - FormerParatrooper - Wednesday, May 14, 14 @ 9:45 pm:

    Does this meet the definition of abuse of power? How stupid are these people we elect? I feel for my neighbors in Peoria County, hopefully they remember this at the ballot box.


  44. - steve schnorf - Wednesday, May 14, 14 @ 9:55 pm:

    Well, for example, Rich wouldn’t allow any of us to post on here as Pat Quinn or Bruce Rauner, no matter how ridiculous what we posted was. He would delete it, and warn us, eventually ban us


  45. - A Citizen - Wednesday, May 14, 14 @ 10:00 pm:

    Thanks a lot Rich - That was one of the best articles I’ve read for quite a while. It really was an edge of your seat unfolding story. Please tie us in to the followups - my guess is we are in for a lot more intrigue. Peoria may be out some big bucks. Thanks again!


  46. - Raymond - Wednesday, May 14, 14 @ 10:45 pm:

    Gotta love this line from Ardis:

    “i sincerely doubt if anything on a [Chicago Mayor] rahm [Emmanuel] parody would have had the language on it that this one did.”

    I guess Ardis missed out on that whole Dan Sinker parody thing of Rahm’s campaign (more than the occasional f-bomb there).

    The fact that Ardis was determined to prosecute the twitter parodist (when doing so, had the SA been willing to go along, would have certainly attracted swarms of unfavorable media attention) should give everybody pause.

    We expect our public officials to think through the consequences of their actions before they act (and smart politicians do just that), but Ardis appeared to have trouble thinking past his full-throated desire to stomp the beans out of the poor sap who dared use twitter to mock him.

    He showed a phenomenal lack of sound judgment.


  47. - Precinct Captain - Wednesday, May 14, 14 @ 10:50 pm:

    ==Well, for example, Rich wouldn’t allow any of us to post on here as Pat Quinn or Bruce Rauner, no matter how ridiculous what we posted was. He would delete it, and warn us, eventually ban us==

    Sure, but there is at least a plausible expectation that BR or PQ could post here. I doubt either would do it under their given name, but you never know. Thus, for those who are clearly public officials or candidates, it makes sense for Rich to leave those handles unused.


  48. - Not Jim Ardis - Thursday, May 15, 14 @ 3:42 am:

    Looked at Peoria’s website and on their FOIA “form” they are violating the law by requiring personal information of the requester (anyone, even someone anonymously, can make a FOIA request).

    Seriously, these folks should all resign, including the judge.


  49. - CollegeStudent - Thursday, May 15, 14 @ 10:24 am:

    ===Does this meet the definition of abuse of power? How stupid are these people we elect? I feel for my neighbors in Peoria County, hopefully they remember this at the ballot box. ===

    Sadly for us the election is a little less than 3 years away and Ardis was unopposed last time.


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