Craigslist Comments Prompt Libel Charges
- HOLY SHIT !!!!!
FORT COLLINS, Colo. (Dec. 2) - A man accused of making unflattering online
comments about his former lover and her attorney on Craigslist has been
charged with two counts of criminal libel.
"It's not a charge you see a lot of," Larimer County District Attorney Larry
Abrahamson said of the 1800s-era state law that can put people in jail for
the content of their speech or writing.
Abrahamson charged J.P. Weichel, 40, of Loveland, in October over posts he
allegedly made on Craigslist's "Rants and Rave" section.
The case began when a woman told Loveland police in December 2007 about
postings made about her between November and December 2007. Court records show
posts that suggested she traded sexual acts for legal services from her
attorney and mentioned a visit from child services because of an injury to her child.
Police obtained search warrants for records from Web sites including
Craigslist before identifying Weichel as the suspect. Weichel shares a child with
Weichel, confronted by detectives at his workplace in August, said he was
"just venting," according to court records.
No phone listing could be found for Weichel, and his attorney, Michael
Liggett of Fort Collins, didn't immediately return a message left Monday by The
Libel is commonly seen as a civil case. Denver attorney Steve Zansberg, who
specializes in First Amendment law, said prosecutors seeking criminal libel
cases could have a "chilling" effect on free speech in Colorado, particularly
over the Internet.
Abrahamson wasn't so sure. He said it is up to police departments to pursue
Zansberg contends the law is outdated, is unclear about stating opinions and
is written in such a way that dead people could be victims of criminal libel.
The statute allows prosecution for speech "tending to blacken the memory of
one who is dead" or to "expose the natural defects of one who is alive, and
thereby to expose him to public hatred, contempt or ridicule." Criminal libel
carries a punishment of up to 18 months in prison.
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