Hypersensitive Cops Use Internet Stalking Law to Punish YouTube Meanie
Aug 9, 2011
By Derek Lazzaro
In Renton, Wash., chief city prosecutor Shawn Arthur has signed a search warrant demanding that Google Inc., owner of YouTube, reveal the real name of one “Mrfuddlesticks,” a YouTube poster who allegedly committed the crime of “cyberstalking.”
The problem is that Mrfuddlesticks has done nothing wrong. What he, or she, has done is exercise the constitutionally protected right to free speech. The alleged crime was making eight cartoon videos—political parodies—that were critical of the City of Renton Police Department. It should be pointed out that the cartoons never mention any of the complainants in the search warrant by name, and that the cyberstalking law was designed to protect children and the victims of real harassment—not overzealous police officers.
The cartoons allege or parody a wide spectrum of misbehavior ranging from drunkenness, to general incompetence, to sexual harassment, to improper sexual relationships with suspects, to stealing evidence. The videos are a bit rude—offensive even. And as an apparent result, a Renton police officer swore under oath that three of his colleagues had become the victims of the new crime of cyberstalking, because, according to the warrant, there was language in the videos that was “meant to embarrass and emotionally torment the victim[s] of the comments.”
Boohoo. Cry me a river.
Since when has it been illegal to make “comments” about police officers and other public employees? Well, if you believe the police, since March 24, 2004.
In 2004 the Washington Legislature enacted RCW 9.61.260, a law that states: “A person is guilty of cyberstalking if he or she, with intent to harass, intimidate, torment, or embarrass any other person, and under circumstances not constituting telephone harassment, makes an electronic communication to such other person or a third party ... using any lewd, lascivious, indecent, or obscene words, images, or language, or suggesting the commission of any lewd or lascivious act.”
In other words, if you go online and “torment” or “embarrass” anyone with any “indecent” or “lewd” words, images or language, you could theoretically go to prison in the state of Washington.
As a lawyer, I am confident in asserting that this law clearly violates the United States Constitution. Indeed, most first-year law students could write an essay about why this law is unconstitutional—far too broad and vague to be enforceable, at least as applied to political speech...
Run Mr Fuddlesticks Run said...
Oct. 7, 2011
And now the Renton Police Department has shredded the very public documents that could have proved or disproved their case, rather than producing the documents to the media under public disclosure.