In March, Jon Daniel says he set up @peoriamayor, a Twitter account he used to send prank messages to friends, mocking Peoria Mayor Jim Ardis. Daniels insists that no one who saw the tweets would have believed the account was really the mayor’s. While Daniels intended TWTR messages as a “joke,” the mayor was apparently infuriated, the Chicago Tribune notes.
According to emails obtained under Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, the mayor and city manager ordered the city’s police department to investigate Daniel over the tweets. That probe resulted in a police raid on Daniel’s home. No criminal charges against Daniel were made after the raid.
Daniel is now suing the city, accusing six officials of violating his constitutional rights, including his right to free speech, through the police raid. Daniel is asking an unspecified amount of money in damages.
Mayor Ardis insists that Daniel stole his identity as mayor with the fake TWTR account. Speaking to reporters, Ardis said, “There is no way for someone to know that what was being said under my name, picture and contact information was not coming from me.” He has threatened to file a defamation lawsuit against Daniel.
In an email regarding the earlier investigation of the TWTR account, the city’s police chief wrote to the mayor: “This phony Twitter account does not constitute a criminal violation in that no threats are made,” adding, “I’m not sure if it would support a civil suit for defamation of character.”
Daniel is being represented by Harvey Grossman, the legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois. Grossman commented: “In a number of public statements, the mayor and Peoria officials have been unapologetic about their activities. The only way to hold these government officials accountable is to have a federal court rule that their actions violated the fundamental constitutional rights of our client.”
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