Feeds

Craiglist rant man on criminal libel rap

Falls foul of 'rarely used' Colorado statute

The essential guide to IT transformation

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." ®

The essential guide to IT transformation

More from The Register

next story
Britain's housing crisis: What are we going to do about it?
Rent control: Better than bombs at destroying housing
Top beak: UK privacy law may be reconsidered because of social media
Rise of Twitter etc creates 'enormous challenges'
GCHQ protesters stick it to British spooks ... by drinking urine
Activists told NOT to snap pics of staff at the concrete doughnut
What do you mean, I have to POST a PHYSICAL CHEQUE to get my gun licence?
Stop bitching about firearms fees - we need computerisation
Ex US cybersecurity czar guilty in child sex abuse website case
Health and Human Services IT security chief headed online to share vile images
We need less U.S. in our WWW – Euro digital chief Steelie Neelie
EC moves to shift status quo at Internet Governance Forum
Oz biz regulator discovers shared servers in EPIC FACEPALM
'Not aware' that one IP can hold more than one Website
prev story

Whitepapers

Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
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.
Advanced data protection for your virtualized environments
Find a natural fit for optimizing protection for the often resource-constrained data protection process found in virtual environments.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.