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Parody Twitter Account?: Police Raided A House For Mocking Peoria, Illinois Mayor

Twitter addiction: Illustration by Carrot Creative.
Illustration by Carrot Creative.
By Lauren C. Williams
Police raided a home last week in Peoria, IL, over a fake Twitter account that mocked the city’s mayor.

Jon Daniel, 28, and his housemates were accused of impersonating Mayor Jim Ardis via the parody Twitter account, @peoriamayor. The seldom-used account, which used the mayor’s likeness and email, had a few dozen followers with just as many tweets, many referencing sex and drugs. Twitter shut down the account, but Ardis still had police descend on Daniel’s house with a broad warrant to search for drugs and paraphernalia along with any electronic devices that could have been used to operate the account. No one was charged with “impersonating a public official” — the sole basis for the raid — but police seized computers and arrested one roommate for marijuana possession.

The raid sparked national outrage for abusing police and government power for what was clearly a joke. Ardis defended his actions on Tuesday, saying, “As a person, I felt a victim of sexual doggerel and filth. It was filth. It was absolute filth.”

Yet in the Peoria case, “there was no underlying crime — parody is protected by free speech under the First Amendment,” David Greene, senior staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation in San Francisco told ThinkProgress. The problem arises, however, when police think using social media itself is the crime, Greene said.

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