Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Criminal Libel's 'Rockie' Future in Colorado

Colorado state welcome sign, along Interstate ...Image via Wikipedia
Politics makes for strange bedfellows as a  Colorado Republican legislator, backed by the ACLU and the state's press association, has filed a bill to eliminate the offense of criminal libel, a class 6 felony.

The Associated Press reports that Sen. Greg Brophy, who represents the Eastern Plains, wants to repeal the 19th century law that has been applied seven times over the past two years, including against Howling Pig editor Thomas Mink (see "TUOL" posts 12/15/11, 6/6/11 & 7/22/10). Critics argue the law suppresses First Amendment freedom of speech as it subjects individuals who broadcast or publish defamatory comments about another to up to 18 months in the hoosegow and a maximum $100,000 fine for a first offense.

Pursuant to Colorado Revised Statutes Title 18-13-105: "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."

The Colorado Press Association and the ACLU support Brophy's repeal effort, while the state's District Attorney's  Council has remained neutral, according to the AP account. Brophy is quoted in the wire service story as saying: “I think it tramples on the First Amendment rights of people to write and/or post online things that they want to post, and so I’m just seeking to strike the statute. Pretty plain and simple.”
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