Here's how the state of Colorado defines the act of criminal libel: "A person who shall knowingly publish or disseminate, either by written instrument, sign, pictures or the like, any statement or object tending to blacken the memory of one who is dead, or to impeach the honesty, integrity, virtue, or reputation or expose the natural defects of one who is alive, and thereby to expose him to public hatred, contempt, or ridicule, commits criminal libel."
Um, did I miss something here? I use written instruments all the time to blacken the memory of both the dead and the living! One day the written instrument could be a lead harpsichord, the next a graphite tuba, and once I actually used a fountain pen in the shape of a didgeridoo — circular breathing was the only way one could draw ink, if I recollect correctly — to violate the corpse of Mayor Benjamin F. Stapleton. Just dug the old bastard up and went to town. I then wrote about it, blogged about it, published photographs of it and hired a crop-duster to carry a banner boldly proclaiming, "Adam Cayton-Holland hath raped a former Klansman, huzzah!" to fly over a Broncos game.
And nothing came of that effort. Yes, that may be because it never actually happened, but still, I just now wrote that it did, and you can bet Stapleton's ravaged asshole no one is going to come after me for it. (I'm sure that Stapleton is particularly peeved that I "blackened" his memory; there's nothing a racist hates more than that particular brand of varnish.) Yes, I have absolutely and definitively defamed, defaced and decried many, many people over the years — yet I've never been sued, much less had criminal charges brought against me! Nor has The Onion, as far as I know. And somehow The Daily Show continues to churn out slanderous gold.
So why, then, has one J.P. Weichel of Loveland been charged with criminal libel for bitching about his ex-girlfriend on Craigslist? Apparently old J.P. got into the "Rants and Raves" section of that site and accused his former lover of swapping sexual favors with her attorney; he also swung a little lower below the belt and accused that shorty of causing an injury to her kid that resulted in a visit from child services. None of this is very funny, sure, but is it criminal?
Well, fuck me right in my Stapleton, turns out that it could be!
My Stapleton is protected by all sorts of zany parody and freedom-of-the-press laws. Also by the fact that the truth is a good defense, and because I'm usually mocking a public figure, and as clearly stated in Colorado Revised Statutes Annotated 18-13-105, a tome that I regularly peruse: "Criminal libel statute was invalid only insofar as it criminalized constitutionally protected statements about public officials or public figures on matters of public concern, but was enforceable where one private person has disparaged the reputation of another private individual." And J.P. publicly clowned his private ex.
Usually, when some common peon (and not a lofty, respected pillar of the community like myself) rips into another common peon, he is slapped with a suit of a civil nature — as in, you affronted my civility, you fat rube. But instead, Larimer County District Attorney Larry Abrahamson — aka Chicken Fucker (come and get me, public official!) — decided to charge J.P. with criminal libel. If he's convicted, he could spend up to eighteen months in prison! Just for flaming his former flame!
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In his defense, J.P. said he was merely venting. But that defense may not hold when this dusty old law is applied to the shiny new technology of the Internet.
J.P., you should have done what most people in Loveland and Larimer County and the rest of the world do when they've been scorned: Head on down to your neighborhood saloon and scrawl your ex-girl's number above the urinal, making sure to put something real biting like "For a good time call" on top of it, or maybe a cock and balls on the side. After that, man, you and the boys would've 'bout busted a seam laughing at your sweet, sweet revenge. But the Internet just ain't a safe place for you to rant and rave as you please, buddy boy. And until you get to be as famous as your old pal What's So Funny, you're going to have to keep your written instrument in check.
Me? I have a legally protected soapbox, and I intend to hoot and holler from up here for as long as I please. So somebody pass me my corpse-raping shovel, again! I gots more work to do. Chicken Fucker.