August 16, 2009

SILENCING THE CRITICS: “A 34-YEAR-OLD woman, the mother of a 12-year-old girl, has been locked up in a Virginia jail for three weeks and could remain there for at least another month. Her crime? Blogging about the police. Elisha Strom, who appears unable to make the $750 bail, was arrested outside Charlottesville on July 16 when police raided her house, confiscating notebooks, computers and camera equipment. Although the Charlottesville police chief, Timothy J. Longo Sr., had previously written to Ms. Strom warning her that her blog posts were interfering with the work of a local drug enforcement task force, she was not charged with obstruction of justice or any similar offense. Rather, she was indicted on a single count of identifying a police officer with intent to harass, a felony under state law.”

Two thoughts: (1) This arrest is almost certainly illegal; and (2) Regardless, they’d never do it to an employee of a traditional media organization. Plus this: “All this information was publicly available, including the photograph, which Ms. Strom gleaned from municipal records. The task force’s officers may have worked undercover on occasion, but one wonders about their undercover abilities, given that Ms. Strom was able to out them so consistently. . . . It should not be a crime to annoy the cops, whose raid on Ms. Strom’s house looks more like a fit of pique than an act of law enforcement.” It’s not a crime to annoy the cops. Charlottesville Police Chief Timothy Longo has a lot of explaining to do.

UPDATE: Tom Maguire does some research and suggests that there may be more to this story than the Washington Post editorial suggests, though it isn’t clear how that might justify an arrest for blogging. And if Strom had connections to drug-runners — or even what’s left of the KKK — wouldn’t she be able to make a measly $750 bail?

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