Making fun of authority figures is a storied American pastime. And outside of the possibility of a libel suit, the First Amendment makes sure no one can face legal repercussions for criticizing, mocking, satirizing, or otherwise lampooning people--especially public figures.
Apparently Renton Prosecutor Shawn Arthur and King County Judge James D. Cayce never took their First Amendment classes in school. Because a court-approved investigation is currently underway that looks to expose and prosecute the maker of some satirical videos that Mr. Arthur and the Renton Police Department don't care for.
KIRO 7's ace investigative reporter Chris Halsne has the scoop on what looks like a butt-hurt prosecutor grossly overstepping his bounds and a judge following along in lockstep.
The investigation centers around a set of videos made on the site xtranormal.com by a user calling himself Mr. Fiddlesticks. Here's one.
And here's another.
Prosecutor Arthur thinks these videos are criminal. And he secured a warrant to force YouTube to release the name of the person who made the videos because he says it constitutes cyberstalking.
Here's Washington's definition of cyberstalking:
(1) A person is guilty of cyberstalking if he or she, with intent to harass, intimidate, torment, or embarrass any other person, and under circumstances not constituting telephone harassment, makes an electronic communication to such other person or a third party:
(a) Using any lewd, lascivious, indecent, or obscene words, images, or language, or suggesting the commission of any lewd or lascivious act;
(b) Anonymously or repeatedly whether or not conversation occurs; or
(c) Threatening to inflict injury on the person or property of the person called or any member of his or her family or household.
Halsne quotes several legal experts who, quite literally, laugh at this statute being used to prosecute the video maker.
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."
Arthur, for his part, isn't talking. KIRO tried to get a comment from him. So did we. But he appears to be ducking questions.
Perhaps Mr. Fiddlesticks will make another video where a cartoon Arthur makes a comment om his behalf.
Here's the full search-warrant affidavit that allows investigators to identify the video maker.