The ACLU filed a lawsuit Thursday on behalf of a man who was arrested after creating a parody Twitter account for the mayor of Peoria, Ill.
The suit comes after Mayor Jim Ardis asked the city manager to instruct police to find the creator of the account that mocked Ardis, raid his home while he was working and then search and arrest him for impersonating a public official while at work.
Jonathan Daniel created the account with the name @peoriamayor in March. He said in a statement that he created the account for amusement, and that the “joke of the account was to… say things that no one would possibly think that Jim Ardis would say.”
The account purportedly made statements, contrasting with the mayor’s clean-cut image, about sex and drugs. Twitter suspended the account.
The suit charges the mayor and six other city officials with “conspiracy to violate and violation” of Daniel’s First and Fourth Amendments rights. It seeks compensation for property seized during the April raid and for his time missed from work. It defends Daniel, quoting an Illinois statute that impersonation of a public official can only be criminalized if done in person.
The ACLU said the account was not “reasonably believable.”
The state attorney general failed to prosecute Daniel because she determined Daniel’s conduct did not violate the false impersonation statute.
Ardis caught backlash over the incident. In an April city council meeting he said Daniel “took away his freedom of speech.”
Another Twitter user has now created an account for Not Jim Ardis with the name @notpeoriamayor that is explicitly labeled as a parody. The Avatar is a picture of Ardis with a mustache modeled after Adolf Hitler’s.