We won…again… for now!Posted: June 16, 2011
So, I’ve not put nearly enough time into this blog to make it worthwhile. One reason for this is that there is still a legal proceeding going on that kind of determines how much I say about certain things or people. Frankly, the kind of lawyers I’m up against like to use everything as evidence in a shotgun fashion to fill up appellate pleadings and I’ve already spent too many hours giving depositions recently to want to add to that kind of crap.
That said, I should give a little background about the latest in an almost 8 year legal battle that has sucked monkey balls in nearly every possible way.
To begin with, there was The Howling Pig. Some friends and I started writing down all the gossipy shit that was flying around the hallowed halls of our university. It was the sort of editorializing that wouldn’t fly at a real newspaper, but we were pretty plugged in to school politics and were fed up with the gloss that the administration was putting on all of the heinous shit they were doing to students and faculty. A sense of moral outrage and copious amounts of booze led to the production of the Howling Pig. We chose as our mascot an obnoxious seat-warmer professor in the business school and used a parody of the guy as the figurehead editor for our otherwise anonymous work.
That’s when shit got real.
Three issues into the Howling Pig, someone floated a copy to the aforementioned mouth-breathing professor and he blew a gasket. Since he had some pull with the local bigwigs, he managed to get the District Attorney’s office to sign off on a search warrant based on a charge of criminal libel.
So the thing about criminal libel, especially in Colorado, is that it takes a lot less to prove than the libel you usually worry about in journalism circles. It basically amounts to the state (as in law enforcement) claiming that you have besmirched the honor of some upstanding citizen and so you get to go to jail. Since that is absurdly unconstitutional under the 1st amendment, usually the statute is used as a way to quash free speech without charges being brought. Prosecutors don’t want to lose such a useful tool to a constitutional challenge by actually bringing it up in court. The idea is that some douchebag district attorney threatens you with the long arm of the law on behalf of one of his buddies and you fold up your printing press rather than fight it.
Well, this search warrant got served on me during finals week while I was at my mom’s house. I did most of the editing of the Howling Pig from her computer, so the cops took it. As you might expect, I freaked the fuck out. Luckily, one of my friends was long-time ACLU activist and when I brought the whole mess to her, she immediately started making phone calls. The ACLU took my case and away things went.
Initially things looked good. The court ordered the police to return my mom’s computer. The police department chose to settle for lawyers fees and $1,000 to my mom. There was widespread coverage, I was a world famous cause, blah blah. Then, the DA’s office dug in its heels. Here’s a tip- when government lawyers want to fight you, they can drag things out for a really L-O-N-G time.
So, here I am nearly eight years later. The case has been through the entire judicial digestive system, including two trips to federal appeals courts, and finally everything is decided… assuming the other side doesn’t find something else to appeal. With fingers crossed, I’m now at the point where damages are decided, reputations are won or lost, and I finally get to remove the ACLU from my phone speed dial.