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." ®

Build a business case: developing custom apps

More from The Register

next story
Arrr: Freetard-bothering Digital Economy Act tied up, thrown in the hold
Ministry of Fun confirms: Yes, we're busy doing nothing
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
US judge: YES, cops or feds so can slurp an ENTIRE Gmail account
Crooks don't have folders labelled 'drug records', opines NY beak
ONE EMAIL costs mining company $300 MEEELION
Environmental activist walks free after hoax sent share price over a cliff
UK government officially adopts Open Document Format
Microsoft insurgency fails, earns snarky remark from UK digital services head
You! Pirate! Stop pirating, or we shall admonish you politely. Repeatedly, if necessary
And we shall go about telling people you smell. No, not really
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
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.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Seven Steps to Software Security
Seven practical steps you can begin to take today to secure your applications and prevent the damages a successful cyber-attack can cause.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.