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Peoria mayor defends response to Twitter account

Published: Wednesday, April 23, 2014 10:47 a.m. CDT

PEORIA – Peoria's mayor defended his actions in response to a fake Twitter account set up in his name, saying he felt his identity was stolen and that the comments posted online were "absolute filth."

Mayor Jim Ardis addressed the issue Tuesday night at a City Council meeting where he faced criticism from some council members and residents who felt he had abused his powers and violated citizens' rights to free speech.

As part of an investigation into who was behind the fake account, police officers raided a home last week, seizing computers and cell phones, and hauling its residents in for questioning. No one was charged over the Twitter account, which had already been shut down. But one person was arrested and charged with possession of marijuana.

The investigation began after Ardis filed a criminal complaint over the Twitter account, which authorities said included posts about drugs and sex.

"It went way over the line," Ardis said of the posts. "For that reason, my immediate reaction was a deeply personal one on behalf of my family and myself. As a person, I felt a victim of sexual doggerel and filth. It was filth. It was absolute filth."

He said the investigation would continue and "run its course without my interference." Police are investigating it as a possible case of impersonating a public official, an offense punishable with a fine of up to $2,500 and up to a year in jail.

The Twitter account was set up in late February or early March under the handle @Peoriamayor. It included a photo of Ardis, his city email address and a bio saying he enjoyed serving the city. Only later did it explicitly state it was a parody account, something Twitter requires under its terms of service. After inquiries from police, Twitter suspended the account.

The only person arrested was Jacob Elliott, 36, who was charged with drug possession.

His grandmother, Caroline Elliott, spoke on his behalf at Tuesday's council meeting, accusing the mayor, whom she said was a longtime friend of hers, of using his "employees as weapons to get even with the citizens of this city."

She said her grandson's home was "literally torn to shreds, turned upside down."

"Isn't this ridiculous?" she said. "Didn't you overuse your power? Didn't you take away the rights of the citizens of this city?"

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