Tags: Facebook | Apology | Ohio | Judge

Ohio Man Given Choice of Facebook Apology or Jail

Sunday, 26 Feb 2012 08:12 AM

 

Share:
  Comment  |
   Contact Us  |
  Print  
|  A   A  
  Copy Shortlink

A man who was threatened with jail time for posting comments about his estranged wife on his personal Facebook page unless he posted daily apologies for a month says the court ruling violates his freedom of speech.

Mark Byron of Cincinnati is making the apology to avoid 60 days in jail, but he plans to appeal the domestic relations court ruling. Byron and free speech and media experts say it should concern other users of the social networking site.

With hundreds of millions of people using Facebook for communication, Byron said Friday that "if they can do this to me, they can do it to others."

The idea "that anybody could tell you what to say to your friends on Facebook should be scary to people," said Cincinnati attorney Jill Meyer, who specializes in free speech and media issues.

The ruling is highly unusual and "troubling because it's a court telling someone to say something to — in some regards — his chosen group of friends," said Meyer. She noted that the comments were not directed to Byron's wife, Elizabeth Byron, who was blocked from accessing the page.

According to the ruling, Byron posted comments on his page in November, saying in part, "If you are an evil, vindictive woman who wants to ruin your husband's life and take your son's father away from him completely — all you need to do is say you're scared of your husband or domestic partner and they'll take him away."

The Byrons are involved in ongoing divorce and child custody proceedings. Byron has said his wife and the court have prevented him from seeing his 17-month-old son many times. The court maintains he is allowed to see him on a twice-weekly basis.

Domestic Relations Magistrate Paul Meyers last month found Byron in contempt of a protective order over his Facebook comments. Meyers said that Byron could avoid a 60-day jail sentence and a $500 fine by posting the apology — written by Meyers — to his wife and all of his Facebook friends and paying her attorney fees.

The June court order prohibited Byron from causing his wife physical or mental abuse, harassment or annoyance. She asked in December that he be found in contempt after learning of the Facebook comments.

Byron's comments expressed frustration, but they were not threats and he didn't make them to his wife, said Cincinnati attorney Jack Greiner, who also specializes in free speech and media issues.

Greiner said he doesn't think the First Amendment "allows a court to find that someone has harassed or caused a person to suffer mental abuse merely by expressing one's opinion about a court proceeding in a non-threatening way."

Greiner said that a court compelling speech through a court-written apology raises as many free speech concerns as actions prohibiting free speech.

The statement that Byron says he has been posting since Feb. 13 has him apologizing to his wife for "casting her in an unfavorable light" and to his Facebook friends for "attempting to mislead them." Byron said he is being forced to make statements that are false.

The magistrate's assistant said Friday that Meyers cannot comment on pending court cases. Elizabeth Byron's attorney did not immediately return calls.

The ruling found that several of Mark Byron's comments were "clearly intended to be mentally abusive, harassing and annoying" to his wife and "generate a negative and venomous response to her from his Facebook friends."

Responses by Facebook friends to his posting caused Elizabeth Byron to be "afraid and concerned," according to court documents.

Byron and his attorney, Becky Ford, say he made his comments out of frustration and never expected his wife to see them since she couldn't access his account.

"Once he made the comments, some of his Facebook friends started making inflammatory comments which he had no control over," Ford said.

His comments were "nothing other than free speech communication where he was venting truthful information," Ford said.

Bryon is scheduled to appear in court March 19 and show proof that he posted the apology or go to jail.

© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Share:
  Comment  |
   Contact Us  |
  Print  
  Copy Shortlink
Around the Web
Join the Newsmax Community
Please review Community Guidelines before posting a comment.
>> Register to share your comments with the community.
>> Login if you are already a member.
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
Email:
Country
Zip Code:
Privacy: We never share your email.
 
Hot Topics
Follow Newsmax
Like us
on Facebook
Follow us
on Twitter
Add us
on Google Plus
Around the Web
Top Stories
You May Also Like

Apple CEO Discusses Security with Top Chinese Official amid Hacking Claims

Wednesday, 22 Oct 2014 06:30 AM

Apple Inc Chief Executive Tim Cook discussed user data security at a meeting on Wednesday with a top Chinese government  . . .

Sen. Leahy Urges Comcast to Extend Net Neutrality Pledge

Tuesday, 21 Oct 2014 12:40 PM

Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, has called on Comcast to extend its net neutrality  . . .

Paralyzed Man Walks After Cells for Smelling Placed in Spine

Tuesday, 21 Oct 2014 12:32 PM

A man paralyzed from the chest down in a knife attack is walking again after undergoing surgery using cells responsible  . . .

Most Commented

Newsmax, Moneynews, Newsmax Health, and Independent. American. are registered trademarks of Newsmax Media, Inc. Newsmax TV, and Newsmax World are trademarks of Newsmax Media, Inc.

 
NEWSMAX.COM
America's News Page
©  Newsmax Media, Inc.
All Rights Reserved