A resident has filed a federal civil-rights complaint against the city of Parma and the police department accusing them of violating his first amendment rights concerning a satirical Facebook account, according to attorney Subodh Chandra of The Chandra Law Firm.
According to the complaint, Parma resident Anthony Novak, was targeted by the city, police department and Ohio Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force for a Facebook page he used in a satirical way to mock the police department.
Novak was arrested in March of last year.
The complaint states "mocking our government officials is a fundamental American right. Yet on March 2, 2016, officers of the Parma Police Department launched a sham investigation against a citizen because he made fun of them on Facebook."
The complaint alleges the department enlisted a child-pornography task force to "retaliate against and silence his criticism."
Novak used the Facebook page to post parodies of the police department's official press releases and criticize the officers for their qualifications, racial sensitivity and other issues.
Novak was jailed and prosecuted for his actions but later acquitted by a jury in August of 2016.
According to the complaint, during Novak's trial, a police officer said he knew the posts were parodic and "any reasonable reader would know and believe the same."
"Police officers are supposed to protect our rights, not violate them," Chandra said. "As Americans, we have the right to criticize government officials--including police officers--even if those criticisms are insulting or petty, without fearing criminal prosecution. Parma's retaliation against Mr. Novak for his speech is expected in banana republics, not America. Parma apparently failed to train its officers to respect fundamental constitutional freedoms."
The complaint claims the Parma Police Department violated the First, Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. It further states officers violated both state and federal privacy laws and the complaint said Novak was maliciously prosecuted.
According to Chandra, the First Amendment protects parodic speech and Parma "did not simply ignore well-settled constitutional rights, it willfully and intentionally prosecuted Mr. Novak for them."
Chandra said the complaint was filed against Parma to protect his client's future speech as Novak "continues to be chilled as he fears renewed retaliation were he continue his parody Facebook page about Parma police."