City owes Peoria man $125,000 after arresting him over parody Twitter account
PEORIA, Ill. — The City of Peoria now owes $125,000 to a man they arrested last year for operating a parody Twitter account for the city’s mayor.
In April 2014, police raided the home of Jon Daniel, a Peoria resident who operated the Twitter handle @Peoriamayor. On this account, he depicted third-term mayor Jim Ardis as a crude, prostitute-soliciting drug junkie, according to the Chicago Tribune.
“Im bout to climb the civic center and do some lines on the roof who’s in,” he said in one tweet.
Officers seized four computers, four iPhones, an iPad and two Xboxes in raid, and arrested Daniel under an Illinois law that prohibits falsely identifying as a public official.
Though he was only detained briefly, the city’s actions unleashed a wave of backlash against Ardis and the police. Represented by lawyers from the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, Daniel filed a lawsuit against the city in June 2014, arguing that his first and fourth amendment were violated.
“I always thought the Twitter account was a joke for me and my friends,” Daniel said in a statement. “I never dreamed that it would result in my home being raided and me being placed under arrest.”
Many legal experts felt the same way, saying satire falls under the realm of free speech, and parody doesn’t equate to impersonation of a public official.
Though they ultimately resolved to pay Daniel $125,000 to settle the suit, the city still believes they were in the right.
“We believe strongly that the City would have ultimately won the case, but … settling early was the soundest fiscal strategy for the taxpayers,” officials said in a statement.
Daniel has since changed his handle to @notpeoriamayor, and a number of accounts parodying Jim Ardis have popped up all over Twitter.