This story was originally published by the WND News Center.
The U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled soon to decide on a case involving authorities’ crackdown on social media comments that parody police.
The Institute for Justice said at issue is whether the court will review the case of an Ohio man arrested and prosecuted for making fun of his local law enforcement.
“Well-known parody websites The Onion and The Babylon Bee offered their support for Anthony Novak’s First Amendment case,” the IJ reported.
It seeks to know “whether freedom of speech actually protects Americans or whether police can arrest you for what you post online.”
“We are asking the Supreme Court to make it clear that qualified immunity does not trump free speech,” said IJ Senior Attorney Patrick Jaicomo. “The First Amendment protects the right of every American to poke fun at government officials. But if police can arrest you for your jokes, that right is meaningless.”
WND previously reported when the case was brought that Patrick Jaicomo, a lawyer for IJ, said, “Anthony Novak was arrested, jailed, and prosecuted because he made fun of his local police department on Facebook.”
“Razzing police isn’t a crime; it’s protected by the First Amendment. In fact, parodies like those Anthony posted have an American history going back to the time of George Washington. The Supreme Court should make it clear that qualified immunity cannot protect police officers who punish people for exercising the freedom of speech.”
The case got its started when Novak created a page to make fun of police in Parma, Ohio, who were “long fraught with problems,” the IJ said.
“That post and the five that followed it mocked the department’s reputation for heavy-handed tactics and other questionable policing. Unexpectedly, Anthony’s parody received a lot of views. By the end of the day, a police spokesman was on local television assuring the public that the page was fake and threatening a criminal investigation into the Facebook page. Because of that threat, Anthony took down the page. It had been up about 12 hours,” the IJ reported.
But three weeks later, in the middle of the night, his home was raided and police seized everything he had that could connect to the internet, the legal team said.
That included his roommate’s devices and video game consoles.
Police accused him of disrupting operations.
He spent four days in jail before getting out, and at trial, was found not guilty.
After his acquittal, he sued the officers, but the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said he could not hold them accountable for their actions.
“Why? Because, even though the court acknowledged that parody was protected by the Constitution, no previous case had held that Anthony’s specific speech was. IJ’s petition to the Supreme Court asks the court to take up Anthony’s case and decide whether government officials are entitled to qualified immunity when they arrest someone based purely on speech. More broadly, it asks the Supreme Court to do away with qualified immunity altogether,” the IJ reported.
Novak said, “I sued to hold the police accountable for violating my rights, but also to make sure this doesn’t happen to anyone else. My Facebook page was obviously a joke, but the criticism was serious. I hope the Supreme Court will take my case and put other police forces on notice by making it clear that what happened to me was wrong.”