Man Arrested for Facebook Joke Appeals to Supreme Court
If the First Amendment means anything, it surely means that an individual can mock the government without fear of being arrested. But that’s exactly what happened to Anthony Novak when he created a parody Facebook page poking fun at his local police department in Parma, Ohio.
In March 2016, Anthony decided to create a Facebook page parodying the Parma Police Department’s page. Anthony’s parody page had the same name and profile picture, but displayed the satirical slogan, “We no crime.” The posts on Anthony’s page were obvious parody.
The Parma Police Department did not appreciate Anthony’s criticism. Police obtained a warrant for his arrest, searched his apartment, seized his electronics, and charged him with a felony. Anthony had to spend four days in jail before making bail. He was prosecuted, but after a full criminal trial, a jury found him not guilty.
But when Anthony tried to vindicate his rights by filing a civil-rights lawsuit, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals refused to hold the police officers accountable for their actions. Despite the clear violation of Anthony’s First and Fourth Amendment rights, the Sixth Circuit granted the officers qualified immunity—a doctrine that the Supreme Court invented in the 1980s to protect government officials from being sued for unconstitutional conduct. So, Anthony’s case was thrown out.
If the police can use their authority to arrest their critics without consequence, everyone’s rights are at risk. Now, with the help of the Institute for Justice, Anthony is asking the Supreme Court to take up his case.
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