The creator of a satirical Twitter account, which posted vulgar tweets parodying Peoria, Illinois Mayor Jim Ardis as a politician with an affinity for drugs, prostitutes and profanity, has tentatively reached a $125,000 settlement agreement following a lawsuit filed against the city.
In early 2014 a parody Twitter account, @Peoriamayor, was created by a man named Jon Daniel, who used a photo of Ardis for the account’s profile picture while posting numerous profane tweets about drugs and sex with prostitutes.
When Ardis caught wind of the fake Twitter account last March, he asked Peoria police to track down the owner, as the account could be considered a “false personation of a public official”, which is a class A misdemeanor in Illinois. Police obtained a warrant compelling Twitter to hand over the subscriber’s information.
After Twitter complied with the warrant, police proceeded to obtain another warrant to determine the Comcast customer address where the tweets were made. A search warrant was then executed at the address on April 15, 2014.
Several police officers- as many as seven- swept through the home and seized all Internet-enabled devices that were inside. By this time, Twitter had already suspended the account because it violated their policy by failing to clearly label the account as satire, although sometime around March 10, 2014 the account was updated to properly reflect that it was a parody account.
The raid did not result in charges filed against Daniel for creating the Twitter account. However, one of the residents of the home, Jacob Elliott, was the only person facing criminal charges after the raid. Elliot, the owner of the Comcast account which provided internet access for the tweets to be made, was arrested and charged with felony possession of “30 to 500 grams of marijuana.”
“As soon as I opened the door, a female officer shoved her hand into my pocket and screamed, ‘What’s in your pocket?’” Elliott recalled shortly after the raid.
Elliott ultimately pleaded guilty this past April and was placed on first-offender probation.
Last June, the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois filed a lawsuit claiming that “Mayor Ardis, along with Peoria’s city manager, the assistant city manager, the chief information officer, former chief of police, and two police detectives violated Mr. Daniel’s First and Fourth Amendment rights by launching a police investigation based on his speech and then searching his home as part of that investigation.”
The Peoria City Council is set to approve the settlement at its meeting scheduled for next Tuesday.