In parts of Illinois, mocking the mayor using a phony Twitter account is apparently enough probable cause to issue a search warrant and incite a raid. Just ask Peoria Mayor Jim Ardis, who recently sent a fully armed SWAT team to beat down the door of some local residents after a parody social media account claiming to be the mayor made one too many contemptuous comments.
According to a report in the Journal Star, a small army of police officers was sent to shakedown the occupants of a nearby residence after a now-suspended Twitter account (@peoriamayor) professing to be Mayor Ardis was traced to their address. Incidentally, the fake account had been terminated weeks before the raid.
Several tenants were taken in for questioning, two of which were at their places of employment at the time they were apprehended. A thorough scavenging of the house by Peoria police uncovered a small stash of marijuana and some drug paraphernalia, which led to the arrest of 36-year-old Jacob L. Elliot.
Elliot’s girlfriend, Michelle Pratt, who also lives at the house, says she was in the shower when seven officers stormed into the house in search of answers about the Twitter account.
“They brought me in like I was a criminal,” she said, adding that police left her in a room for over three hours before detectives arrived to interrogate her.
“They said they had a search warrant and took all the electronic devices that had Internet access,” said Pratt. “They said there had been an Internet crime that occurred at this residence.”
Reports indicate that around 50 tweets were made from the phony account, some of which made drug and sexual references. One even compared Mayor Ardis to Toronto Mayor Rob Ford.
So far, none of the suspects have confessed to being the mastermind of the fake Twitter account, nor has anyone ratted out the true culprit. However, Peoria Police Chief Steve Settingsgaard said when they find the person responsible, they plan to charge them with impersonating a public official – a class A misdemeanor punishable with up to a $2,500 fine and a year in jail.
The mayor believes using a SWAT team to teach Peoria residents a lesson in respect is acceptable protocol.
“I still maintain my right to protect my identity is my right,” said Ardis in a recent interview.
What do you think of Mayor Ardis using a SWAT team to arrest the creators of the fake Twitter profile? Tell us in the comments below!