The Renton City Prosecutor wants to send a cartoonist to jail for mocking the police department in a series of animated Internet videos.The “South-Park”-style animations parody everything from officers having sex on duty to certain personnel getting promoted without necessary qualifications . . .
Only KIRO Team 7 Investigative Reporter Chris Halsne holds a key document that really lays bare the city’s intent. The document was quietly filed in King County Superior Court last week. It’s a search warrant accusing an anonymous cartoon creator, going by the name of Mr. Fiddlesticks, of cyberstalking (RCW 9.61.260). The Renton Police Department and the local prosecutor got a judge to sign off as a way to uncover the name of whoever is behind the parodies. Halsne talked with three nationally respected legal experts who believe the use of the cyberstalking statute is likely stomping on the constitution . . .
A criminal court document, uncovered by Team 7 Investigators, not only shows how badly the city of Renton wants to “out” the cartoonist (who goes by the name MrFiddlesticks), but states some of the fake character’s lines discuss real life incidents.For example, the search warrant says one cartoon statement “discussed a past incident that has already been investigated…..regarding a dating relationship (a female detective) had with a suspect.”
An embarrassing revelation; yes, but criminal?We asked attorney Venkat Balasubramani to review several parody videos and the court documents. He’s an expert in cyber-law and constitutional issues.
“The cyberstalking angle doesn’t pass the laugh test,” Balasubramani told KIRO-TV. “It’s a serious stretch and I’d be surprised if somebody looked at it and realistically thought these acts actually fit the statute and we could make somebody criminally liable.”
When we asked about the more likely scenario, Balasubramani said, “I think they were trying to get at the speaker and they looked around for a statute that shoehorned their conduct into and sent that to Google and said ‘turn over the information.”Historically, Google and You-Tube are far more likely to cough up an anonymous animator’s real name when there’s a criminal case, as opposed to just an internal affairs investigation into some personnel issues.
In a just world, this stunt would get the prosecutor disbarred and the police chief fired.
MORE: Ken at Popehat names the names.