Last week, Peoria Mayor Jim Ardis finally became fed up with a suspended parody Twitter account and enacted swift justice against his would-be social media detractors. Ardis filed a criminal complaint regarding the nefarious internet ne’er-do-well behind @Peoriamayor, who tweeted some 50 times to followers about the mayor’s unverified and supposed drug use and association with prostitutes.
Twitter suspended the account in March, which was marked as a parody a week before it ended, but Ardis understood a social media slight was comparable to lawless anarchy. Realizing a relatively unknown Twitter feed might destroy his reputation as an important civic leader, Ardis made sure the Peoria Police took care of the Internet miscreants. Peoria police executed a search warrant and raided a home in connection with the account, detained several people for questioning and seized computers and smart phones.
“They brought me in like I was a criminal,” Michelle Pratt told the Peoria Journal Star. Pratt was one of five people detained and questioned by police, three at the residence raided and two who were approached at their workplaces. According to the Daily Herald, it took seven plainclothes police officers to raid the residence where the suspect, Jacob L. Elliott, was arrested and booked on an unrelated marijuana charge. No charges have been filed against any of those questioned regarding the Twitter account.
Despite the fact that charges weren’t filed because no laws were broken, Ardis defended his use of the Peoria police and the court system to go after the perpetrators at a City Council meeting on Tuesday. Ardis told the City Council not only did he feel like a victim of identity theft but also “felt (like) a victim of sexual doggerel and filth. It was filth. It was absolute filth.” Ardis lamented his First Amendment rights were somehow trampled. “You can’t say (those tweets) on behalf of me,” he said. “That’s my problem. This guy took away my freedom of speech.”
City Council members, like the majority of people, were more rational. According to The Journal Star, at-large councilperson Chuck Weaver said “When we start going down the path on something like this, someone should be saying, ‘Hold on a minute, guys, let’s do a gut check here.”