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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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  • IANAL (Score:5, Informative)

    by Freddybear (1805256) on Thursday August 04, 2011 @08:40PM (#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:Yes and No (Score:5, Informative)

    by haruchai (17472) on Thursday August 04, 2011 @09:43PM (#36993184)

    And some should face the electric chair - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1ljYNgLnpxM [youtube.com] ( Murder of Kelly Thomas by 6 police officers, tasered and beaten to death )

  • by BillX (307153) on Thursday August 04, 2011 @09:55PM (#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).

  • Re:IANAL (Score:4, Informative)

    by Lloyd_Bryant (73136) on Thursday August 04, 2011 @10:09PM (#36993334)

    ...and you can guarantee "Mr. Fiddlestick" will turn up with a knife in him in an alley somewhere with "no suspicion of foul play".

    No - he'll just commit suicide. By shooting himself in the back of the head. Twice.

  • Re:ACLU (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 04, 2011 @10:31PM (#36993424)

    ACLU? I watch them. They do some good things - but overall, the ACLU is anti-church, anti-family, anti-white, and anti-establishment.

    Ok, now guess where most of the abuses of power and violations of constitutional rights come from? (Hint: It's usually not from minorities or others without power and/or wealth.)

  • Re:ACLU (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 04, 2011 @11:00PM (#36993564)
    The only people who think the ACLU is anti-church are the ones who think their religion should be promoted to the rest of us. a random piece of data I found [aclufights...stians.com]. I'm not sure how they're anti-family, or anti-white or anti-establishment. Unless you're trying to tell someone else how to live their life it's unlikely there is any reason to detest the ACLU.
  • Re:ACLU (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 04, 2011 @11:35PM (#36993718)

    The ACLU used to be what you're describing (at least for first amendment issues). That was about 40 years ago. They stood on the side of principle without regard to who it was they were defending including racists, nazis, criminals, various religions, etc. This was when they were fulfilling their promises and "fighting the good fight" as it were. These days they're just a political movement in cognito.

    It's a shame because we need an organization that is what they used to be to the first amendment: watchdogs and defenders. Only we need them in the modern day and for the entire constitution rather than just the first amendment.

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

    by nbauman (624611) on Friday August 05, 2011 @12:30AM (#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).

  • Re:IANAL (Score:3, Informative)

    by nomadic (141991) <nomadicworld@nOSpAM.gmail.com> on Friday August 05, 2011 @01:01AM (#36994066) Homepage
    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 police department would not qualify as a "person" to be protected under this law.
  • Re:Abuse Of Power? (Score:1, Informative)

    by glorybe (946151) on Friday August 05, 2011 @07:19AM (#36995300)
    The worst, built in, component is the fact that a cop can not report other cops or stop another cop from committing a crime upon a citizen as that cop's life often depends upon that other cops actions. Try to stop a cop from beating a suspect and you won't get help when you get into a tight spot. Rodney King is a huge example. Any cop could have drawn his side arm and arrested the cops who were beating on Mr. King. But none dared to act.

"Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there." -- Will Rogers

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