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Parody Twitter account of Peoria, Ill., mayor prompts police raid

- The Washington Times - Monday, April 21, 2014

Illinois police raided a Peoria home last week to find the person behind a parody Twitter account that falsely claimed to be Mayor Jim Ardis.

The account — @Peoriamayor — had already been suspended for several weeks when up to seven plain-clothed police officers executed a search warrant and seized phones and computers from the West Bluff residence, the Peoria Journal Star reported.

"They just asked me about the Twitter account, if I knew anything about it," said resident Michelle Pratt. "They brought me in like I was a criminal."

Five people were brought to Peoria Police Department for questioning, but no arrests were made in connection with the Twitter account. Police did, however, arrest one resident for possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia, the newspaper reported.

"We're just still in investigation mode and don't have a suspect in custody," Police Lt. Willie King Jr. told the Los Angeles Times. "We have a couple of forensic guys that do this type of crime investigation. If they come up with things, we look into them."

False impersonation of a public official is a Class A misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $2,500 and up to a year in jail.

"I don't agree it was obvious, and in fact it appears that someone went to great lengths to make it appear it was actually from the mayor," Police Chief Steve Settingsgaard told the Star.

Twitter's policy specifies that parody accounts must be clearly identified as such. The @Peoriamayor account reportedly showed a picture of Mayor Ardis, and repeatedly tweeted references to sex and drugs, while making no mention of being a fake account.

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