Monday, June 6, 2011

UPDATE: Howling Pig Blogger's 4th A. Rights Violated by Colo. Prosecutor, Federal Judge Rules

line art drawing of Mink animalImage via WikipediaThird time was the charm for teen blogger Thomas Mink, creator of the Howling Pig Website, whom a federal judge last week ruled had his constitutional rights violated by Weld County (Colo.) prosecutor Susan Knox, who approved a search warrant seizing the student's computer in a criminal libel probe.

In Thomas Mink v. Susan Knox, a Deputy District Attorney Working for the 19th Judicial District Attorney's Office in her Individual Capacity (Case No. 04-cv-00023-LTB-CBS), U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado Judge Lewis T. Babcock, in a 13-page opinion, granted Mink summary judgment, holding Knox liable under 42 U.S.C. sec. 1983 for violating Mink's Fourth Amendment protection against illegal search and seizure.

As previously reported by this blog (see "TUOL" post 7/22/10), the whole affair began when a University of Northern Colorado professor complained to police that Mink's Howling Pig Website altered his image and included defamatory content about him.  A criminal libel probe was launched and Knox okayed a search warrant of Mink's mother's home where he resided that culminated in his computer being confiscated.

Judge Babcock concluded Mink's efforts were protected satire under the First Amendment, which derailed Knox's contention that she was shielded from personal liability because she was acting in her capacity as a government official.  "Mr. Mink has established that Ms. Knox's alleged conduct violated his Fourth Amendment rights because there was no probable cause to believe that he had committed criminal libel," Judge Babcock wrote.

Judge Babcock was slow to come over to Team Mink, as on two previous occasions, the U.S. Court of Appeals reversed his dismissal of Mink's claim and remanded the case to him

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