We've previously celebrated people who helped define and defend our rights by standing up.
But it would be wrong to let them get all the credit. Our rights would never have been in doubt — and thus judicial enunciation of them would never have been necessary — but for the existence of loathsome, oversensitive twats and the government thugs who empower them.
Junius Peake, former economics professor at the University of Northern Colorado, is one such loathsome, oversensitive twat. Deputy District Attorney Susan Knox is one such thug.
Let us celebrate them.
Junius Peake was minding his own business at UNC when one Thomas Mink, writing at the blog The Howling Pig, began using a satirical character named "Junius Puke" as the Pig's putative editor-in-chief. "Puke" commented on issues of interest to people at UNC and in Northern Colorado. Mink used an altered picture of Peake to portray Puke:
No, Peake does not look like that.
How obvious was it that "Puke" was a satirical character, that Professor Peake was not writing the column himself, and that no honest person with a room-temperature IQ could believe otherwise? Well, ask the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit:
Junius Puke covered subjects and used language that Mr. Peake, a professor of finance, surely would not have. For example, the editorial said:
"This will be a regular bitch sheet that will speak truth to power, obscenities to clergy, and advice to all the stoners sitting around
watching Scooby Doo. This will be a forum for the pissed off and disenfranchised in Northern Colorado, basically everybody. I made it to where I am through hard work, luck, and connections, all without a college degree. Dissatisfaction with a cushy do-nothing ornamental position led me to form this subversive little paper. I don’t normally care much about the question of daycare since my kids are grown and other people’s children give me the willies[.]" Aplt. App., vol. I at 147-48. Significantly, The Howling Pig editorials even contained an express disclaimer regarding the editor: "The Howling Pig would like to make sure that there is no possible confusion between our editor Junius Puke and the Monfort Distinguished Professor of Finance, Mr. Junius “Jay” Peake. Mr. Peake is an upstanding member of the community as well as an asset to the Monfort School of Business where he teaches about microstructure. Peake is active in many community groups, married and a family man. He is nationally known for his work in the business world, and has consulted on questions of market structure. Junius Puke is none of those things and a loudmouth know-it-all to boot, but luckily he’s frequently right and so is a true asset to this publication." Id. at 146. According to the search warrant affidavit itself: "The picture [of Junius Peake] has been altered to include sunglasses, a smaller nose and a small moustache similar to that of Hitler’s. The person in the photograph is identified on the website as Junius Puke. The picture is accompanied by a biography of Mr. Puke. According to the site, its purpose is to draw attention to issues rampant in Northern Colorado and Elsewhere [sic]." Ex. B at 3.
So what did Junius Peake, respected Montfort Distinguished Professor of Finance, do when he discovered that someone had made a cheeky and sophomoric parody of him?
He called the cops.
No, seriously. Professor Junius Peake responded to satire by calling the cops.
And that's not the most appalling part.
The cops got a search warrant and searched Mink's home, and seized his computers as evidence of violations of Colorado's criminal libel statute.
Why? According to Mink, it's because Deputy District Attorney Susan Knox reviewed and authorized the search warrant and instructed the cops to move forward with it. In theory, it's a prosecutor's job to act as something of a bulwark between citizens and utter lawless fuckwittery by cops, who will try to seek a search warrant for all sorts of demented things. If Mink's allegations are true, Susan Knox was a piss-poor bulwark.
No doubt that's why the Tenth Circuit has now twice reversed rulings in her favor in Mink's federal lawsuit against her. The DA declined to charge Mink, but Mink sued under Section 1983 for violations of his constitutional rights. The district court first ruled that Knox was entitled to absolute immunity, and the Tenth Circuit slapped it down. More recently, in the decision linked above, the Tenth slapped down another dismissal, finding that no reasonable law enforcement officer could have concluded that The Howling Pig showed probable cause to believe that Mink committed a crime. Back to the trial court Mink and Knox go. You can read about the decisions in greater detail at the excellent if irritatingly named Cyb3rcrim3 blog.
Susan Knox may yet get her comeuppance for playing the role of the government thug in this case. And Junius Peake? He's not named in the suit. Only word of mouth, and Google, can punish him. Junius Peake was a professor — a teacher at an institute of higher learning, supposedly devoted to open discourse — when he reacted to satire by running to the police. That's completely contemptible. He no longer works at UNC, apparently, but his role in this incident ought to follow him and mark him as a vile little censorious sniveler wherever he goes.
But credit where it is due. If we didn't have contemptible snivelers and thugs, how would we have such good First Amendment caselaw?
Last 5 posts by Ken White
- Popehat Goes To The Opera: Un ballo in maschera - August 19th, 2017
- Department of Justice Uses Search Warrant To Get Data On Visitors to Anti-Trump Site - August 14th, 2017
- America At The End of All Hypotheticals - August 14th, 2017
- Lawsplainer: Why John Oliver Is Anti-Diversity Now - August 11th, 2017
- Anatomy of a Scam, Chapter 15: The Wheels, They Grind - August 10th, 2017