Kicked off by a police raid during April 2014 in Peoria, Illinois, city officials are now being forced to pay 29-year-old Jonathan Daniel a sum of $125,000 in order to settle a civil rights violations case. Police raided Daniel’s home because he had created a parody Twitter account representing Peoria mayor Jim Ardis. Clearly disturbed by the fake Twitter account, Ardis set the wheels in motion to arrest and prosecute Daniel for the fake account based on a charge of “false personation of a public official.”
After the incident occurred, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a suit against the city in federal court last summer. The original suit claimed that the city violated Daniel’s First and Fourth Amendment rights, specifically when his personal details were obtained as well as the ensuing raid on his home. In addition, the ACLU added claims of false imprisonment as well as privacy violations during late 2014.
Of course, both parties involved in the suit attempted to spin the settlement in their favor. The attorney representing Peroria, Jim Sotos, said “The settlement is probably the best objective indication of the city’s case. Ultimately, the settlement figure is less than the plaintiffs’ attorneys have in fees in the case already and a fraction of what the city would have had to pay my law firm to litigate the case.” Of course, the city also has to pay Sotos an additional $100,000 for his firm’s work on the case.
Alternatively, ACLU spokesman Ed Yohnka responded “It is a bit surprising to hear that the city diminished the amount of the settlement. The amount was arrived at through thoughtful, productive negotiation. Everyone involved knew that the cost for the city would have escalated dramatically had litigation continued.” According to the ACLU, Daniel is satisfied with his portion of the overall settlement.
In addition to the monetary compensation, the city of Peoria also had to release a statement via the Peoria Police Department that stated “Illinois false personation of a public official statue does not apply to on-line parodies or satires of public officials..”