Criminal Libel Conviction Over Fake-Name Online Reviews
As I’ve written before, criminal libel statutes remain on the books in about a dozen states; if they are narrowly focused on knowing defamatory falsehoods, I think they are constitutional (see this post for more details), and my research so far suggests that they are enforced likely about 20 to 30 times a year. They tend to be especially common in Wisconsin, as Prof. David Pritchard discussed in his Rethinking Criminal Libel: An Empirical Study, 14 Communication Law & Policy 303 (2009), the article that opened my eyes to this phenomenon.
I just ran across a recent prosecution, from June 29 of this year (just posted to the Lumen Database on Oct. 7), and I thought it worth passing along; I’d love to hear what people think about it.
The defendant, Yuri Olegovich Burrows, pleaded no contest, and was apparently sentenced to 9 months in jail (based in part on having a criminal history, namely a 2014 conviction on three counts of violating a harassment restraining order). Here are the facts alleged in the prosecutor’s statement, based on statements from police officers; they are a bit confusing, but I think they paint a clear enough big picture of the allegations:
Attorney Ted Warpinski … stated that his business was getting several negative reviews, one of which had an account photograph picturing a friend of his, Bradley T. Zielinski. Ted stated he had asked Zielinski if he had anything to do with th
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