PARMA, OH (WOIO) - On Thursday, a federal judge ruled that a Parma man who was prosecuted for publishing a Facebook parody about the Parma Police Department "had a constitutional right to his Facebook Page...and he still does today."
In October 2017, Anthony Novak filed a civil lawsuit alleging the city of Parma and two of its police officers, Kevin Riley and Thomas Connor, had deployed child-pornography investigative specialists, a SWAT team, and forensic technicians in an effort to retaliate against Novak for creating a Facebook page that cast the police department in an unflattering light.
On March 2, 2016, Novak created the fake page that was nearly identical to the Parma Police Department's official Facebook page. The fake account used the name "The City of Parma Police Department."
Mr. Novak's lawsuit drew national coverage, and Parma and its officers filed motions to dismiss, arguing that citizens can be "lawfully investigated and arrested" if their Facebook pages "caused public confusion."
In yesterday's opinion, the court denied the city's motions, ruled that 26 of Mr. Novak's federal and state claims may proceed, and rejected Parma's argument that his Facebook page was a crime: "Despite the Defendants' attempts to argue otherwise, it cannot be seriously contended that the Facebook Page was anything but a parody." According to the opinion, Mr. Novak "alleges facts that would chill a person of extraordinary firmness—let alone ordinary firmness—from exercising his First Amendment rights."
Novak was also acquitted on a Disrupting Public Services charge following the incident.