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Mayor Who Freaked Out, Ordered Police Raid Over Parody Twitter Account Getting Sued

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PEORIA MAYOR
Peoria Mayor Jim Ardis acted swiftly to find out who was behind a parody Twitter account about him. The ACLU announced Thursday he is being sued for violating the account's creator's constitutional rights. | PeoriaGov.org
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Maybe this Illinois mayor just never "got" the joke. And now he's being sued over it.

When Peoria Mayor Jim Ardis found out that he had inspired a parody Twitter account (@PeoriaMayor) featuring expletive-laden tweets about drugs, sex and alcohol, he did not take the news lightly.

According to the Chicago Tribune, Ardis and City Manager Patrick Urich ordered a police investigation into who was responsible for the Twitter account within hours of learning of it. That order led police to obtain a search warrant and raid the home of 29-year-old Jon Daniel, who had created the account "as a joke."

Now, Ardis is facing a lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, which claims the mayor and other city officials violated Daniel's First and Fourth Amendment rights. The lawsuit was announced Thursday.

(Read Ars Technica's detailed report on the city's investigation into the Twitter account.)

“The joke of the account was to have my fictional mayor saying things that no one would possibly think that Mayor Jim Ardis would say,” Daniel said in a Thursday statement. “If the mayor was concerned, all he had to do was tell the public that his was not his account and not his words, rather than involving the police.”

In response to the lawsuit, Ardis said in a statement posted to the City of Peoria's website that the story has been "mischaracterized" by the media "from day one," noting that the account was not identified as parody when it first went public in March. He is reportedly considering suing Daniel for false light and defamation.

"I agree with the foundation of the Constitution granting us all freedom of speech," Ardis said in the statement. "I don’t believe that freedom allows me to say anything I want to say about anyone at any time about anything and attribute those things to another person as their thoughts under their picture. That’s taking away my freedoms."

The Peoria Journal Star reports the account was, indeed, not initially labeled as parody but that text noting it was not an official account was added about a month prior to the April 15 raid of Daniel's home. The account was also suspended by Twitter due to threats of legal action prior to the execution of the search warrant, during which computers and other electronic devices were seized.

Daniel was arrested at his workplace the same day of the raid, according to the Associated Press, but prosecutors announced a week later that he would not face charges because he had not violated a state law against the impersonation of public officials. He has never been charged with any crime.

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