27-year-old Anthony Novak was arrested in March after he created a fake Facebook page spoofing the local police department in Parma, Ohio. According to Novak, the police raided his apartment while his roommate was home and took all of his electronics, and Novak himself spent three days in jail. However, late last week, Novak was acquitted of the charges — and says he now plans to sue the police department for violating his First Amendment rights.
A grand jury had charged Novak with disrupting public services — a felony — because 911 responders received phone calls from people concerned about fake stories on the page. The stories were often outlandish, however, and were obviously intended to be humorous.
“The ability to make commentary using satire and parody is so important to our ability to express ourselves and hold the state accountable for its actions,” ACLU Attorney Elizabeth Bonham said. “To show that speech can be unprotected, the state has a very, very high burden to show that it was actually and imminently going to cause harm.”
Now Novak plans to take the fight to the Parma police and receive the restitution he feels he deserves for unfair treatment.
“I just want them to pay for what they did. They maliciously arrested me because they were mad about what I said,” Novak said. “I live in Parma right now and it makes me a little uneasy that my police department probably doesn’t like me.”
This case shows how far a police department can overstep its bounds based on Facebook activity, but it’s a good thing Novak’s free speech rights were ultimately protected.