PEORIA – A man accused of creating a fake Twitter account in the name of Peoria’s mayor and posting lewd comments about sex and drugs will not face charges, the county’s top prosecutor said Wednesday.
After Mayor Jim Ardis filed a criminal complaint over the matter, police raided a home last week, seizing computers and hauling residents in for questioning. The action sparked criticism that the mayor had abused his powers and violated free speech rights.
Peoria County State’s Attorney Jerry Brady told the Journal Star he won’t be bringing charges in the matter, which police were investigating as possible case of impersonating a public official.
The relevant subsection of the Illinois law criminalizing the offense indicates it must be carried out in person and makes no mention of using the Internet or other electronic media, Brady said.
Ardis defended his actions at a City Council meeting Tuesday night, saying he felt his identity was stolen and that the comments posted online were “absolute filth.”
“It went way over the line,” Ardis said of the posts. “For that reason, my immediate reaction was a deeply personal one on behalf of my family and myself. As a person, I felt a victim of sexual doggerel and filth. It was filth. It was absolute filth.”
The Twitter account was set up in late February or early March under the handle @Peoriamayor. It included a photo of Ardis, his city email address and a bio saying he enjoyed serving the city. Only later did it explicitly state it was a parody account, something Twitter requires under its terms of service.
After inquiries from police, Twitter suspended the account, but the police raid happened several weeks later regardless.
Police also seized drug paraphernalia and one resident arrested during the raid was charged with possession of marijuana.
Brady would not comment on whether the drug charge would remain now that the primary reason for the search warrant did not result in charges.