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Censorship United States Your Rights Online

Online Parody Cartoon Targeted For Prosecution 327

Posted by timothy
from the what-renton-might-need-is-some-attention dept.
SeattleGameboy writes "It seems that the Renton (suburb of Seattle) police need a remedial course on the U.S. Constitution," linking to a story at Seattle TV station KIRO which says "The Renton City Prosecutor wants to send a cartoonist to jail for mocking the police department in a series of animated Internet videos. The 'South-Park'-style animations parody everything from officers having sex on duty to certain personnel getting promoted without necessary qualifications. While the city wants to criminalize the cartoons, First Amendment rights advocates say the move is an 'extreme abuse of power.'"
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Online Parody Cartoon Targeted For Prosecution

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  • by NFN_NLN (633283) on Thursday August 04, 2011 @07:23PM (#36992650)

    "certain personnel getting promoted without necessary qualifications"

    The prosecution may have merit, wouldn't the above qualify as obscene?

  • ACLU (Score:5, Interesting)

    by the eric conspiracy (20178) on Thursday August 04, 2011 @07:24PM (#36992662)

    Don't forget to send in your contribution today.

  • by mbone (558574) on Thursday August 04, 2011 @07:27PM (#36992686)

    It's not the police, it's the prosecutor. The police may have agitated for this, but the prosecutor is the person who should know better.

    • by RussR42 (779993)
      Even the police should know better. What surprises me most is that people are still surprised about this kind of thing. It happens all the time, while the big corruption within the government is ignored - in fact, it's a crime to point it out.
      • by _KiTA_ (241027)

        Even the police should know better. What surprises me most is that people are still surprised about this kind of thing. It happens all the time, while the big corruption within the government is ignored - in fact, it's a crime to point it out.

        Actually, if you read the linked article, the cartoons contain information that could only be obtained through a leak in the Internal Affairs department of the Renton PD or someone at the Renton PD animating the rumor mill and getting lucky. They're going the "cyberstalking" angle cause it's the closest thing they have to "some idiot's trolling the police online with stuff from Internal Affairs." Not sure the Cyberstalking law counts for this, but it's likely the most similar legal substitute.

        • by RussR42 (779993)
          Fair enough. But my point was that "leaking" reports of corruption to the public is considered a crime. Funny how that works. And not 'haha funny'.
    • by snowgirl (978879)

      It's not the police, it's the prosecutor. The police may have agitated for this, but the prosecutor is the person who should know better.

      I saw a judge berate a lawyer for asking him to sign a prior-restraint TRO on his opposing party. The judge should have known better as well... but their claim is that the person is harassing and posting this with intent to embarass... which I can see (whistleblower laws protect you from reporting incidents to the proper authorities, not airing it on youtube) but the fact that the allegations aren't false, means the material isn't defamatory... so... good luck sticking this prosecution all the way to convic

    • by poetmatt (793785)

      maybe he'll get sanctions. It'd be nice to see some government prosecutors getting this when appropriate, such as when they tried to snuff out whistleblowers in court.

    • by sjames (1099) on Thursday August 04, 2011 @09:07PM (#36993316) Homepage

      It's not the police, it's the prosecutor. The police may have agitated for this, but the prosecutor is the person who should know better.

      And should face disbarment for dereliction of his duty as an officer of the court.

      The actions he seeks to prosecute are practically textbook examples of protected speech.

      The judge who signed that warrant has some explaining to do as well. He isn't there to operate the rubber stamp, his job is to make the police and prosecutors demonstrate that their warrants are valid and constitutional before he signs off on them. If he won't do that or he's too much of a patsy to do that then he's a disgrace to his office and yet another in a growing list of reasons why citizens should re-consider any level of respect they might have left for their government.

      • by hairyfeet (841228)

        Yeah good luck with that! you get a prosecutor with an agenda and life can turn to shit REAL quick friend. We had one of those in my area a few years back, a female who was a classic 'All those with a penis are rapist scum"no matter if there was anything...like oh say EVIDENCE, or even if the police believed it, nope if you had a penis you were rapist scum.

        Once the women realized it was that way it got to the point every. damned. divorce. the woman would either scream rape herself or if she had a daughter

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        I sent this to the CJC Fax number (360) 586 - 2918 (thank you eFax):

        I, (redacted per forum post), believe that judge James Cayce has flagrantly and knowingly misconstrued the spirit of law with reference to RCW 9.61.260. The judge has signed off on a search warrant to expose the identity of a unknown person or persons who created numerous parody videos lambasting an unnamed Police Department. The videos are believed to be about the Renton Police Department yet provide little more than allusion to sa

      • by Hatta (162192)

        What's worst is that both the prosecutor and the judge have immunity for anything they do in the course of their jobs. So there's literally no recourse against these criminals.

    • by MarkvW (1037596)

      You don't know what you're talking about. Cops always ask for warrants on their own. In Washington, prosecutors lose their immunity when they step into the investigative process.

      In complicated or important cases, like homicide and sex crimes, advice is frequently sought of the prosecutor. For misdemeanors . . . not so much.

      It's possible the the prosecutor advised the cops on this one, but I sincerely doubt it. This incestuous mess reeks from a mile away. Maybe the prosecutor was involved, but the odds

    • by tombeard (126886)

      It is the police that are committing perjury. To hide their aggravated assault.

  • Wait for it... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by U8MyData (1281010) on Thursday August 04, 2011 @07:28PM (#36992692)
    ...you civil liberties are becomeing an endangered species if you question authority, impead the operations of businesses, or criticize your elected officials. I never thought it would come to this in this country. Isn't it sad that the pent up frustration and anti-establishment from the 60's generation (the people now in power) has morphed into this?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Generation gap. The 60s people marched, risked jail time, and their lives to deal with this crap.

      These days, people don't give a shit about rights, as long as they have their iPhone and their Facebook. Maybe they might sign a petition to have the First Amendment reinstated, or like a group on FB saying they miss having the ability to not have their property searched at whim. However don't expect anything more than that.

      • Generation gap. The 60s people marched, risked jail time, and their lives to deal with this crap.

        Many of the 60s people had their lives on the line. They were being drafted. Their friends were being drafted and dying. It incentivizes a bit of civil disobedience.

        • Generation gap. The 60s people marched, risked jail time, and their lives to deal with this crap.

          Many of the 60s people had their lives on the line. They were being drafted. Their friends were being drafted and dying. It incentivizes a bit of civil disobedience.

          Their lives will be on the line again if they were to stop getting social security and/or medicare. Just sayin'.

        • Re:Wait for it... (Score:4, Informative)

          by nbauman (624611) on Thursday August 04, 2011 @11:30PM (#36993950) Homepage Journal

          I lived through the 60s. It was more than just the war. A lot of people put their lives on the line in ways that had nothing to do with the draft. Their friends were getting killed because they were trying to vote in the south, for example. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mississippi_civil_rights_workers_murders [wikipedia.org]

          Corny as it sounds today, they did it out of a commitment to social justice.

          You're right, though. The draft incentivized them to resist the war in Vietnam.

          Of course, 3,000 Americans died in an even more senseless war in Iraq. I don't know why that doesn't incentivize kids today to do anything (beyond voting for Obama, which doing nothing).

        • by nomadic (141991)
          "Generation gap. The 60s people marched, risked jail time, and their lives to deal with this crap."

          Who do you think is in power now?
          • by rts008 (812749)

            Who do you think is in power now?

            The ones that didn't march, risk jail and their lives?

            The ones that made their parents proud by embracing and extending the Old Guard.
            "A chip off the old block!" and not an original, creative thought in his head to distract him from his mission.

            Those 60's 'activists' are usually weeded out from gaining power during the selection process.
            Business and politics will mark you as ineligible for hire/unelectable with that stuff on your record.
            And with more databases go online with these records, it will become ne

      • Re:Wait for it... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by FutureDomain (1073116) on Friday August 05, 2011 @12:12AM (#36994122)

        Generation gap. The 60s people marched, risked jail time, and their lives to deal with this crap.

        These days, people don't give a shit about rights, as long as they have their iPhone and their Facebook. Maybe they might sign a petition to have the First Amendment reinstated, or like a group on FB saying they miss having the ability to not have their property searched at whim. However don't expect anything more than that.

        Of course there are people today who care enough about our rights to stand up for them. They're called Anonymous. They may be trying to create change the wrong way, but at least they are standing up against corporations, organizations, and governments who try to censor and tear down the First Amendment.

        • by N1AK (864906)

          Of course there are people today who care enough about our rights to stand up for them. They're called ACLU & other similar organisations.

          Fixed that for you. Anonymous is by definition not about any specific cause. Furthermore, most of what they do has nothing to do with protecting rights and is simply the abuse of others for amusement. You just have to look at how they respond to some of their critics (attacks, harassment etc) to see how much they truly value anyone else's freedom of speech.

      • by tombeard (126886)

        Protesting in the 60s didn't get you stuck on a "no fly" list, blackballed from schools and corporate jobs and unable to get a security clearance. In a few years it will prevent you from getting medical care, which is cool if your 20 but sucks when your 50. Maybe Visa and MC will decide you are persona-non-grata and you can't buy food and such. No bank accounts, you might be a terrorist and in any event you are on the list.

        The state has drastically raised the price of protest and disobedience. It is an insi

  • by erroneus (253617) on Thursday August 04, 2011 @07:34PM (#36992742) Homepage

    Yet another nugget I would not have known about were it not for someone out there trying to stop it!

  • Tough Case (Score:4, Funny)

    by Stormy Dragon (800799) on Thursday August 04, 2011 @07:35PM (#36992750) Homepage

    It's going to be hard for the prosecuter to prove "intent to embarass", given that the Renton Police Department apparently has absolutely no sense of shame.

    • Intent to embarrass isn't a crime. Of course, only sociopaths don't feel embarrassment. Oh, wait.....

      • Intent to embarrass isn't a crime. Of course, only sociopaths don't feel embarrassment. Oh, wait.....

        Under a definition of cyberstalking that includes intent to embarass over the internet to a third party, the majority of internet users are criminals.

  • IANAL (Score:5, Informative)

    by Freddybear (1805256) on Thursday August 04, 2011 @07:40PM (#36992792)

    But these guys are:
    http://volokh.com/2011/08/04/is-it-criminal-to-publish-parody-videos-that-use-lewd-language-meant-to-embarrass-and-emotionally-torment-police-officers/ [volokh.com]

    Yes, the Renton (Wash.) city prosecutor’s office concludes, applying the Washington “cyberstalking” statute — an excellent example of the dangers of the broad “cyberbullying” and “harassment” statutes that I have often condemned. KIRO-TV reports:

    The Renton City Prosecutor wants to send a cartoonist to jail for mocking the police department in a series of animated Internet videos.

    The “South-Park”-style animations parody everything from officers having sex on duty to certain personnel getting promoted without necessary qualifications.... [Last week, the prosecutor filed] a search warrant accusing an anonymous cartoon creator, going by the name of Mr. Fiddlesticks, of cyberstalking (RCW 9.61.260). The Renton Police Department and the local prosecutor got a judge to sign off as a way to uncover the name of whoever is behind the parodies.... ...

    Under the prosecutor’s view, any statement — including on a blog, in a YouTube video, in a newspaper article, on television, or whatever else — is a crime if it is made “with intent to harass, ... torment, or embarrass” the subject of the person “[u]sing any lewd, lascivious, indecent, or obscene words, images, or language.” A comedian’s joke that “lewd[ly]” or “lascivious[ly]” described President Clinton’s behavior with Monica Lewinsky, or for that matter Congressman Weiner’s behavior, would be a crime if it was made “with intent to ... embarrass” the President or the Congressman. The Hustler parody attacking Jerry Falwell, which the Supreme Court held to be protected against civil liability under the “intentional infliction of emotional distress tort,” would be a crime. Indeed, in this very case, the theory is that the videos are criminal because they described alleged police sexual misconduct using “lewd” or “indecent” words with the intent to torment or embarrass particular officers. (The theory expressed in the document — a search warrant application — is that the videos sufficiently identify the particular police officers who were involved in the incidents to which the video alludes.)

    If the prosecutor is right that the statute should be interpreted this broadly, then it’s clearly unconstitutionally overbroad. Speech to the public doesn’t lose its constitutional protection because it’s intended to torment or embarrass. (It may lose such protection when it’s intended to be perceived as a true threat of criminal attack, but that’s not the issue here.) Nor does lose its constitutional protection because it uses “lewd” or “indecent” terms. And while one-to-one speech said to an unwilling listener may in some circumstances be restricted — which is the reason traditional telephone harassment laws, if properly crafted, may be constitutional — this rationale can’t be used to suppress speech said to the public, even if the people discussed in the speech are tormented or embarrassed by it.

    Moreover, the statute would be clearly unconstitutional as applied to this video, and the prosecutor and the judge ought to know this. (The prosecutor is Renton Chief Prosecutor Shawn Arthur; the judge on an earlier warrant was James Cayce, but I don’t know what the affidavit said there, and I don’t know the name of the judge who apparently issued the warrant based on the affidavit included with the KIRO story.) A search warrant can onl

    • Re:IANAL (Score:5, Interesting)

      by SeattleGameboy (641456) on Thursday August 04, 2011 @08:00PM (#36992908) Journal
      The prosecutor fully knows he is barking up the wrong Constitutional tree, but what is really unconcerting is the fact that they are doing this just so that they can find out who "Mr.Fiddlestick" is. Since Google won't reveal who "Mr.Fiddlestick" is without a criminal investigation, they are using this to run around that requirement. I doubt that they will even charge him with the statue. Pretty sickening abuse of power.
      • Re:IANAL (Score:4, Insightful)

        by mosb1000 (710161) <mosb1000@mac.com> on Thursday August 04, 2011 @09:54PM (#36993544)

        They already know who he is. The comics chronicle conversations he had with people in that office. And you can tell from their tone that he's on the outs with the leadership. They just want proof it was him so they can fire him, or whatever.

      • by nbauman (624611)

        Did Google actually respond to the subpoena and disclose the guy's name?

        Or did Google's lawyers tell them where to go? I read the subpoena on the TV station's web site, and it was absurd on its face.

    • by ArsonSmith (13997)

      And to quote Han Solo, "I must have hit her pretty close to the mark to get her all riled up like that, huh, kid?"

      • I think the videos did just that. I just finish watching and the videos do not mention the name of any city or any person's name the videos could be based anywhere.
    • Moreover, the statute would be clearly unconstitutional as applied to this video, and the prosecutor and the judge ought to know this. (The prosecutor is Renton Chief Prosecutor Shawn Arthur; the judge on an earlier warrant was James Cayce, but I don’t know what the affidavit said there, and I don’t know the name of the judge who apparently issued the warrant based on the affidavit included with the KIRO story.) A search warrant can only be issued if there is probable cause to believe that it will uncover evidence of a crime; since the material described in the affidavit can’t be made criminal under the cited statute, given the First Amendment, the warrant ought not have been issued. The government is not permitted to use its coercive power to identify the author of this constitutionally protected video.

      I am also not a lawyer, though I do pay attention and did study a bit of law, and I believe your epxlanations and analysis are spot on. A statute that broad (I admit I have not read it, nor am at all familiar with Washington state laws) runs afoul of the constitution in such an obvious manner that no prosecutor should attempt to use it in this way, and no judge should allow a case like that to proceed. If prosecution proceeds, and the defendant fights it up through the courts as far as necessary, the only q

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by nomadic (141991)
        IAAL and you're right in that it is clearly unconstitutional, and should be struck down on broadness grounds or more likely just because it prohibits Constitutionally permitted activities. You don't even really have to go that far, though; Washington state's criminal code defines person this way:

        "(17) "Person", "he", and "actor" include any natural person and, where relevant, a corporation, joint stock association, or an unincorporated association."

        This does NOT include governmental agencies. A poli
    • by MarkvW (1037596)

      I'm not sure that there is prosecutorial involvement here. If there were, I would have expected to see the City Attorney put his or her ass on the line rather than the chief of police. The source you quote for prosecutorial involvement doesn't look too reliable.

  • by tchdab1 (164848) on Thursday August 04, 2011 @07:40PM (#36992796) Homepage

    It's never too late to educate your police force on the fine points of the Constitution.
    They might even grow to appreciate it.

    • It's never too late to educate your police force on the fine points of the Constitution.
      They might even grow to appreciate it.

      Or they may bludgeon you into a coma. It all depends on the venue and the officer in question I suppose.

    • by BlueStrat (756137)

      It's never too late to educate your police force on the fine points of the Constitution.
      They might even grow to appreciate it.

      Yeah, right...

      Try telling that to *this* cop and then get back to us. If you survive, that is.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kassP7zI0qc [youtube.com]

      Strat

  • by Fjandr (66656) on Thursday August 04, 2011 @07:40PM (#36992798) Homepage Journal

    The judge should be removed from the bench and the prosecutor should be disbarred. This is blatant abuse of the judicial process, and both are either complicit or incompetent, and either one should warrant their removal from their respective offices.

  • but it will still work. Lawyers cost money and defending against a criminal complaint costs time as well. By the time the case is dismissed, the defendant is going to be bankrupt either way and it'll be a very long time before anyone thinks of criticising the police in that part of the State.
    • by netsavior (627338)
      Living in a town where the entire police force is out to get you isn't freedom. This guy will lose, no matter if he wins. He lost when the search warrant was issued.
      • by Caerdwyn (829058)

        Assuming they don't simply bust into his house, trash it, kill his dog simply out of spite, and perhaps even him for "resisting arrest". Cops think they have the power to mete out low justice in the form of lead.

        Thin blue line my ass. These aren't cops. They're armed criminals and should be dealt with on that basis. The Second defends the First.

  • She might have some input on this situation. Also, Mecha-Striesand might be effective at law enforcement.
  • by macraig (621737) <`mark.a.craig' `at' `gmail.com'> on Thursday August 04, 2011 @07:55PM (#36992880)

    The proper mindful response to such criticism would be change the policies of the police department and the behavior of its officers such that no reasonable person would even briefly consider them credible.

    As it is, the only reason for them to believe that a costly criminal trial is necessary is (a) because they themselves actually find the parody critiques credible and (b) they intend to discourage further criticism by vilifying the creator of the parodies.

    This is not justice or rule of law in action. This is tribalism (police department and city officials being the tribe), abuse of the law, and abuse of authority. This is actual criminal behavior perpetrated by people sworn to protect and uphold. We know what they're attempting to protect, and it's not us.

  • by BillX (307153) on Thursday August 04, 2011 @08:55PM (#36993246) Homepage

    http://www.xtranormal.com/watch/11622514/score-parody-3 [xtranormal.com]

    http://www.xtranormal.com/watch/11599075/score-parody-part-deux [xtranormal.com]

    Also, the username(s) used by the uploader were "MrFuddlesticks" (not fiddlesticks) and "whothehellispenny". It looks like the rest of the videos have already been deleted (couldn't find any kind of search feature on xtranormal).

  • To hell with satirizing the police, he should be sent to jail for subjecting the public to more inane xtranormal cartoons.
  • by Compulawyer (318018) on Thursday August 04, 2011 @09:06PM (#36993310)

    ... I am a lawyer. Isn't there just a TINY problem with a judge in the State of WASHINGTON issuing a search warrant for premises located in the State of CALIFORNIA?

    This isn't a civil subpoena - it is a SEARCH WARANT. Hello? Jurisdiction anyone?

  • Clearly the idiots in charge of this little corner of Soviet Russia don't clearly understand the law or the American Constitution. Bad Con Law Professors or a very lax grading curve for these Prosecutors and Judges. Just sad the state of legal education if they've let idiots like these be in charge of anything more important than dog licensing.
    • I would say a law school's responsibility is solely to prepare a student for passing the bar exam. It is the responsibility of the bar association to ensure the bar exam will only allow qualified individuals through to practice law.

      If idiots are being allowed to practice, don't blame the schools, blame the bar association.

  • That's the city motto. It has it's origins in the fact that Renton is a traffic jam on I405 caused by a bottle neck called the "s" curve.
  • ...if people, companies, and government agencies would just develop a sense of humour about themselves and stop feeling mortally threatened by every little bit of criticism.

    And if the cartoons contain factual info that is embarrassing or threatening to the force or to individuals therein, then a house cleaning is in order and the investigation should be directed at the PD, not at the citizen revealing the information. But it seems that these days, government agencies are sacrosanct, and immune from criticis

  • The constitution diminishes our inalienable human rights, it doesn't augment them. Its purpose is to restrict corporate (ie: microsoft) government which in reality is there to regulate commerce. If anyone needs proof that we're trained from kindergarten to behave like and even claim to be corporate entities (and therefore subject to regulation), they need to read more books. (And not the kind from Chapters either.)
  • Some judge signed this warrant. We have the warrant requirement just so people will be safe from abuses like this.

    I seriously doubt that this warrant was EVER intended to support a criminal prosecution. All the cops want is a NAME. They are not seeking prosecution--that would obviously be ludicrous. They are using the warrant process to conduct an internal security investigation. This is a serious misuse of the warrant requirement.

    Misusing warrants can mean a section 1983 lawsuit. Misleading a judge a

  • This is an isolated incident. This totally isn't happening all over the country. The police totally don't violate people's first, second, fourth and fifth amendment rights on a daily basis. There is no need to watch the watchers. They are all honorable upstanding citizens. Also, the opposite of everything I just said.
  • It's persecution.

    The mechanism / perpetrator just happen to be called "prosecution".

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