Feeds

Craiglist rant man on criminal libel rap

Falls foul of 'rarely used' Colorado statute

The Power of One Brief: Top reasons to choose HP BladeSystem

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." ®

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications

More from The Register

next story
Adam Afriyie MP: Smart meters are NOT so smart
Mega-costly gas 'n' 'leccy totting-up tech not worth it - Tory MP
Just TWO climate committee MPs contradict IPCC: The two with SCIENCE degrees
'Greenhouse effect is real, but as for the rest of it ...'
'Blow it up': Plods pop round for chat with Commonwealth Games tweeter
You'd better not be talking about the council's housing plans
Arrr: Freetard-bothering Digital Economy Act tied up, thrown in the hold
Ministry of Fun confirms: Yes, we're busy doing nothing
ONE EMAIL costs mining company $300 MEEELION
Environmental activist walks free after hoax sent share price over a cliff
Help yourself to anyone's photos FOR FREE, suggests UK.gov
Copyright law reforms will keep m'learned friends busy
Apple smacked with privacy sueball over Location Services
Class action launched on behalf of 100 million iPhone owners
UK government officially adopts Open Document Format
Microsoft insurgency fails, earns snarky remark from UK digital services head
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable
Learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.