Via Radley Balko comes more narcissistic whining from Jim Ardis, the mayor of Peoria, Illinois, who is rapidly becoming famous for sending his pet cops to raid the house of someone who ran a parody Twitter account in his name. Nick Vlahos of the Peoria Journal Star reports that Ardis doesn’t seem to think he did anything wrong:
Ardis defended his actions, which led to search warrants, a police visit to a West Bluff residence and the arrest of one occupant on a marijuana-possession charge.
He said the profane tweets, on a Twitter account created by Peoria resident Jon Daniel, could not be tolerated. That was true even after the account was re-labeled as a parody and was deactivated.
“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 can’t say (those tweets) on behalf of me. That’s my problem. This guy took away my freedom of speech.”
Peoria City Council member Jim Montelongo pretty much nails it:
Montelongo said the episode represented an abuse of Ardis’ authority, as well as the police department’s.
“There was too much power of force used on these pranksters,” said Montelongo, the 4th District councilman. “It made it look like the mayor received preferential treatment that other people don’t get or will never get.”
That’s exactly right. Ardis is abusing his mayoral power when he uses it in service of his personal needs. In some ways, it’s no different from when a business executive brings his wife along on a trip and uses the company account to pay for the ticket. What makes it worse, of course, is that Ardis’s little power trip resulted in an armed raid on someone’s house and suppression of free speech.
As an aside, Radley brings up a good point:
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.)
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.
The warrants reportedly listed drugs among the items to be searched for — based on some posted pictures of drug paraphernalia — but they also listed computers because of the impersonation issue, which seems like a problem.
Look, there are a lot of parodies online, and the targets usually just learn to live with them, like adults. If somebody out there starts a fake Windypundit blog in my name, I might be able to do something about it under intellectual property law (although not if it’s purely parody, a well-protected speech right), but there’s no way I could get the police to go after them. Even when the person pretending to be someone else does so with malice and causes harm, the police are unlikely to get involved if there’s no straight-up crime like fraud or threats of violence. At least not unless there’s an ego-crazed maniac like Jim Ardis pressuring them to do his bidding.
Meanwhile, Ardis is apparently working from the sociopath playbook and blaming everyone else for his problems:
In his pre-meeting interview, Ardis said he believed his complaint was handled no differently than anybody else’s would be. He said he didn’t orchestrate the police investigation, nor the search-warrant process.
“That’s a heck of a lot more power than any mayor I know,” Ardis said.
“My guess is as far as the judge is concerned, it doesn’t matter if it’s the mayor. They’re looking at the substance. Why would they allow something without a foundation? That’s the core of everything they do.”
Ardis said the situation provides an opportunity to discuss the proper limits of commentary on social media. He also said the news media is responsible, in part, for the problem.
“You’re 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.
“It’s your responsibility to put actual information out there and cover both sides. Not to opine. And that didn’t happen. Clearly, that didn’t happen.”