MEDINA — The American Civil Liberties Union is applauding Friday’s dismissal in Medina Municipal Court of a criminal charge against a Lorain County man who posted a Facebook message cheering the Newtown, Conn., school gunman.
“Today’s dismissal further confirms our argument that the defendant’s statements were protected speech under the First Amendment,” said James Hardiman, legal director of the ACLU of Ohio. “His comments may have offended people, but that is not illegal.”
Joseph W. Resovsky, 20, of Columbia Station, was arrested the day after he posted on his Facebook home page, “im so happy someone shot up all those little (expletive). VIVA LA SCHOOL SHOOTINGS!!!!”
Resovsky posted the message 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, saying he just wanted to see whether he could get comments.
Friday’s dismissal of the case was expected after the Medina city prosecutor filed a motion Jan. 10 asking that the charges be dropped “without prejudice” — meaning charges could be filed later if new evidence emerged.
Resovsky was arrested after a caller reported Resovsky’s Facebook posting and others cited it on the Medina Police Department’s Facebook page.
“There were quite a few posts where people were pretty upset by it,” Medina Police Chief Patrick Berarducci said. “I think it scared a lot of people.”
Resovsky was charged with inducing panic, a first-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to 180 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.
He pleaded not guilty, arguing that the comments did not constitute a threat and were protected under the First Amendment.
The case drew the attention of the Ohio chapter of the ACLU, which provided lawyers to defend him.
Hardiman said Medina Law Director Greg Huber made the proper decision in requesting the dismissal following a review of the facts of the case.
“One of the many terrible things about tragedies like the Connecticut shooting is the climate of fear and anxiety they create all over the country,” Hardiman said. “In times like these, a clear legal line must be drawn between threatening behavior and protected free speech.”