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"The ACLU of Washington is very concerned that Renton officials are using the cyberstalking law in this situation," writes Doug Honig, communications director for the ACLU.
"The cyberstalking law is designed to protect individuals from serious harassment by other individuals, not to protect government from parodies by employees. People have a right to speak anonymously on the Internet, and employer-employee issues involving YouTube satires should not be pursued as criminal matters. We would very much like to hear from the individual who posted the parodies so that we can know more about the facts of this matter."
(PSST—The ACLU of WA can be reached at: 206-624-2184)
Seattle University law professor and legal ethics experts John Strait tells The Seattle Times he thinks Renton could face First Amendment issues if it pursues the case. He says the cyberstalking statute doesn't apply.
Originally posted by OldCorp
This is an egregious violation of Mr. Fiddlestick's rights (I can't believe I just wrote that ) under the First Amendment. In the days of the Founders, political cartoons were the most popular form of free speech because the population was largely illiterate; with cartoons, just about anyone can understand the statement being made.
Even today, shows like the Simpsons and South Park deliver political massages. Whoever is behind this persecution of Mr. Fiddlestick's and the violation of his First Amendment rights needs to lose their job.
We asked attorney Venkat Balasubramani to review several parody videos and the court documents. He's an expert in cyber-law and constitutional issues.
“The cyberstalking angle doesn't pass the laugh test," Balasubramani told KIRO-TV. "It's a serious stretch and I'd be surprised if somebody looked at it and realistically thought these acts actually fit the statute and we could make somebody criminally liable."
When we asked about the more likely scenario, Balasubramani said, "I think they were trying to get at the speaker and they looked around for a statute that shoehorned their conduct into and sent that to Google and said ‘turn over the information.”
Historically, Google and You-Tube are far more likely to cough up an anonymous animator's real name when there's a criminal case, as opposed to just an internal affairs investigation into some personnel issues.
KIRO Team 7 Investigators went to the City Attorney's office to ask the chief prosecutor, Shawn Arthur, his motivations to criminalize cartoon creators. Halsne was told to leave a handwritten note. We did not hear back from Arthur. A similar thing happened at the Renton police department. A spokesperson told Halsne that Chief Kevin Milosevich was unavailable.
Team 7 Investigators, however, did track down Penny Bartley. She’s a former Renton Police Public Information Officer and current jail administrator, which court records say is the female bureaucrat in some of the cartoons.
The mystery animator makes fun of her ankles and questions her resume, yet Bartley wouldn’t talk about the parodies, except to say the city prosecutor never contacted her regarding the filing of a criminal warrant.
Halsne: "The video is insulting to you. Can't you at least step out and talk about how that makes you feel?"
Bartley: "I'm not going to talk about that."
Halsne: "So you're not offended?"
Bartley: "I'm not going to comment on this Chris, I've said that."