A new lawsuit has been filed against the City of Parma in Ohio after a man claims they conspired to not only violate his First Amendment rights to free speech but incarcerated and jailed him for acting upon those rights.
28 year old Anthony Novak formally filed the lawsuit Tuesday against the City of Parma and three officers.
Back in March of 2016, he created a parody Facebook page that appeared similar to the page of Parma's Police Department and posted satirical threads suggesting that police were performing free abortions for teenagers, and a multitude of other humorous posts.
He also made satire posts which suggested it would be illegal to help the homeless for three months and had a recruitment post "strongly encouraging minorities to not apply."
It was clearly a joke, satire; and there's nothing illegal about what Novak did. This sort of comedic humor exists all over Facebook and other social media platforms as parody.
However the City of Parma and the Parma Police Department weren't laughing about the posts.
The City of Parma announced they were performing an investigation into the page and even sent a letter to Menlo Park, California; Facebook’s headquarters look into the matter with a subpoena to obtain Novak’s identity.
Novak then took the page down, realizing that the City was intent upon infringement of his rights.
Facebook complied with the subpoena and the Parma Police then issued warrants for Novak and he was charged with disrupting public services, a fourth-degree felony that carries a sentence of up to 18 months in prison.
Believe it or not Parma used a SWAT team, which then raided his apartment and confiscated his laptops, cellphones, tablets, and gaming consoles.
Yes, the Police Department went this far over the man making a parody page.
According to Novak’s attorneys this was a “sham investigation which violated Novak's constitutional rights to free speech and protection from unreasonable seizure”, and quite frankly they're right.
"This is one of the most extraordinary examples of government retaliation I have ever seen," said Subodh Chandra, Novak's attorney. "The idea that police officers would jail and prosecute someone for criticizing them is fundamentally abhorrent to who we are as Americans."
During the trial for Novak, several Parma officers claimed that the “socially contentious” nature of Novak's parody posts were responsible for protesters showing up outside the Police Department.
Novak and his attorneys said this was a lie, and the Police Department failed to offer any proof that such protests ever occurred.
State prosecutors said that the fake page “disrupted public services by prompting 10 unnecessary calls to police dispatchers”, another claim which no evidence could be provided to ascertain as factual.
Novak was later acquitted of any wrongdoing, but he still was forced to pay legal fees and spent time incarcerated over satire.
He's yet to receive the return of any of his electronics either, and his attorneys say that this is part of a vindictive harassment against their client since the courts sided with Novak over Parma Police.
"Mr. Novak is experiencing ongoing chilling of his free speech," Chandra said. "They've offered no guarantee that they will not retaliate again."
Now Novak is suing the City of Parma and the Parma Police Department to cover his legal fees, place an injunction against the Parma Police, and financial compensation for the damages occurred to him being arrested for expressing his First Amendment rights.
In this case, it seems incredibly pathetic of the Parma Police to have used a SWAT team over wrongthink and satire on the internet, and it's crystal clear they violated Novak's Constitutional Rights.
I hope he not only wins a settlement, but this serves as precedent in the future that the First Amendment cannot and shall not be infringed upon.
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