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'Up to Seven' Officers Search Home, Seize Phones and Computers – The Reason Why Could Have Serious Implications for Social Media


"They said there had been an Internet crime that occurred at this residence."

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Police in Peoria, Ill., searched a local residence and seized phones and computers on Tuesday because officials claim a parody Twitter account “went to great lengths to make it appear” it belonged to Peoria Mayor Jim Ardis.

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“The account — known as @Peoriamayor on the popular social media service that limits entries to 140 characters — already had been suspended for several weeks when up to seven plainclothes police officers executed a search warrant about 5:20 p.m. at 1220 N. University St,” The Journal Star reports.

Police brought in three people at the home for questioning and later picked up two more residents at their jobs.

Michelle Pratt, one of the home’s residents, said she was left alone in an interview for three hours before detectives questioned her about the parody Twitter account.

“They brought me in like I was a criminal,” she said.

Pratt’s boyfriend, Jacob L. Elliot, was reportedly arrested on marijuana possession charges and booked into Peoria County Jail. However, no charges were filed over the parody Twitter account.

“They said they had a search warrant and took all the electronic devices that had Internet access. They said there had been an Internet crime that occurred at this residence,” Pratt told The Journal Star.

If police are able to get to the bottom of the Twitter account, Peoria Police Chief Steve Settingsgaard says the creator could face charges for false personation of a public official, a Class A misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $2,500 and up to one year in jail.

(Twitter) (Twitter)

The @PeoriaMayor account was created around March and was updated around March 10 to make it c lear it was a parody account. The tweets were sometimes “ambiguous” and other times “offensive,” the report adds.

Settingsgaard claims it was not clear that the account was meant to be satirical, saying “it appears that someone went to great lengths to make it appear it was actually from the mayor.”

The account is currently suspended and will likely stay that way.

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