MEDINA — Two weeks ago, Joseph W. Resovsky, the Columbia Station man arrested after posting a Facebook message cheering the Newtown, Conn., school gunman, didn’t have an attorney.
Now he has four — thanks to the American Civil Liberties Union.
Resovsky, 20, was scheduled to be arraigned Wednesday in Medina Municipal Court on a charge of inducing panic. But the hearing was canceled after James Hardiman, the Ohio ACLU legal director, entered a written plea of not guilty on Resovsky’s behalf.
“We believe the defendant’s statements are protected speech under the First Amendment,” Hardiman said in a prepared statement, released Wednesday.
The letter to the court listed the ACLU’s legal team as Resovsky’s attorneys. In addition to Hardiman, they are Jennifer Martinez Atzberger, Drew Dennis and Jeffrey Gamso, the former legal director for the ACLU of Ohio, now in private practice.
Medina police charged Resovsky after he posted “im so happy someone shot up all those little (expletive). VIVA LA SCHOOL SHOOTINGS!!!!” on his Facebook page on Dec. 14, the day 20 children and six adults were fatally shot at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Resovsky told police he was tired of all the Facebook posts about the tragedy, and he just wanted to see if he could get comments. If convicted of inducing panic, a first-degree misdemeanor, Resovsky faces a maximum punishment of up to 180 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.
Hardiman said that while Resovsky’s comments were “attention-seeking,” the Facebook posts “made no direct threats.”
“They may have been in bad taste, and they may have offended people, but our Constitution makes it very clear that offending people is not illegal,” he said.
Resovsky made many of the same arguments in a motion he filed himself last month, asking that the charges be dismissed.
Judge Dale H. Chase rejected Resovsky’s motion Dec. 27, saying the court had referred Resovsky to the public defender’s office for legal representation.
“Accordingly, the defendant is represented by counsel and pleading filed directly by the defendant will not be acknowledged by the court,” Chase wrote in his ruling.
The judge also noted that Resovsky’s motion could not be considered because it “does not comply with the rules of procedure,” which require that he first enter a plea to the charge.
Medina City Law Director Greg Huber declined to comment on the case.
Medina Police Chief Patrick Berarducci said the charge of inducing panic was justified because many people were scared by Resovsky’s posting and reported it on the Police Department’s Facebook page.
“A lot of people took it as an endorsement to commit other acts of violence in the schools,” he said.
Contact reporter Kiera Manion-Fischer at (330) 721-4049 or firstname.lastname@example.org.