Feeds

Craiglist rant man on criminal libel rap

Falls foul of 'rarely used' Colorado statute

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

A Colorado man who allegedly made anonymous postings on a Craigslist forum attacking his former girlfriend faces two criminal libel raps with a maximum tariff of 18 months' jail, the Los Angeles Times reports.

J.P. Weichel, 40, was locked in a custody dispute with his ex-partner over their daughter when he "vented" on the "rants and raves" forum - suggesting that she "abused her child and concealed it from social workers, committed welfare fraud and worked for a 'crooked' Fort Collins lawyer whom she sexually serviced".

Some postings referred to the woman by name, and were "laced with crude references to her body". She contacted police in December last year, who traced the material to a computer Weichel "had access to". In August, officers questioned him at his workplace, and on 21 October Larimer County District Attorney Larry Abrahamson filed charges against the accused.

The DA's move is significant because Colorado is one of a "dwindling number" of US states to have a criminal libel law - a statute which "dates to the 19th century and is rarely used". The Los Angeles Times explains: "In civil libel cases, truth is the best defense and the dead cannot be libeled. But Colorado's criminal statute holds that it is illegal to 'blacken the memory of one who is dead'. Truth is not a defense in such cases, or in ones that 'expose the natural defects of one who is alive'."

Gregory Lisby, a communications professor at Georgia State University, said the 17 states that still have such statutes "had simply not updated laws from English common law". He described criminal libel prosecutions as deploying "a sledgehammer when a scalpel would do the same trick".

David Lane, a First Amendment lawyer in Denver, chipped in with: "It's shocking the statute exists, and that someone's even using it is more shocking."

Accordingly, several lawyers have insisted the case "should be handled in civil court", and that "bringing the government into the dispute is a troubling infringement on free speech". Mark Silverstein, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado, said: "Being a jerk isn't necessarily grounds for felony prosecution."

Abrahamson, however, defended: "This is what the Legislature of the state of Colorado has determined is criminal. We're obligated to enforce the laws in the state of Colorado." ®

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

More from The Register

next story
Spies, avert eyes! Tim Berners-Lee demands a UK digital bill of rights
Lobbies tetchy MPs 'to end indiscriminate online surveillance'
How the FLAC do I tell MP3s from lossless audio?
Can you hear the difference? Can anyone?
Inequality increasing? BOLLOCKS! You heard me: 'Screw the 1%'
There's morality and then there's economics ...
Google hits back at 'Dear Rupert' over search dominance claims
Choc Factory sniffs: 'We're not pirate-lovers - also, you publish The Sun'
While you queued for an iPhone 6, Apple's Cook sold shares worth $35m
Right before the stock took a 3.8% dive amid bent and broken mobe drama
4chan outraged by Emma Watson nudie photo leak SCAM
In the immortal words of Shaggy, it wasn't me us ... amirite?
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.