FORT COLLINS, Colo. – A man accused of making unflattering online comments about his former lover and her attorney on Craigslist has been charged with two counts of criminal libel.The stories in the local Colorado paper are here and here.
"It's not a charge you see a lot of," Larimer County District Attorney Larry Abrahamson said of the 1800s-era state law that can put people in jail for the content of their speech or writing.
Abrahamson charged J.P. Weichel, 40, of Loveland, in October over posts he allegedly made on Craigslist's "Rants and Rave" section.
The case began when a woman told Loveland police in December 2007 about postings made about her between November and December 2007. Court records show posts that suggested she traded sexual acts for legal services from her attorney and mentioned a visit from child services because of an injury to her child.
I figured that I was safe with this blog, because I don't make any out-of-court accusation. I mainly comment on public news stories, like this one, and on actual court documents and actions in my personal case. Nearly everything I say about my personal case can be verified from the court records.
I was wrong. I was prosecuted for quoting testimony from open court. It was not libel, because no one could dispute the truth of what I said. I was prosecuted for contempt of court by Commissioner Irwin H. Joseph.
Update: A law prof suggests that the criminal libel ought to be unconstitional here. There is now an LA Times article.
In my case, Cmr. Joseph initiated the case, and I tried to get him removed from the case, but he ruled on the case himself anyway. Yes, he acted as prosecutor and judge.