Friday, April 13, 2012

Violation of Freedom of Speech?

Last year after being found guilty of civil domestic violence against his wife and granting her an order or protection against him he posted a rant on his Facebook page:
"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 that you’re scared of your husband or domestic partner and they’ll take him away!"

As a result a magistrate gave him two choices. Either re-friend his wife and post a public apology every day for 30 days or 60 days in jail.

Byron took the apology deal in which he would post a "court approved" apology status on his Facebook everyday for 30 days. It looks like he stopped posting before the 30 days were up but will not be jailed.

A few things seem odd here:
1. Apparently when Bryon made that rant about his wife she was not even on his friends list meaning that she found out about it by some means other than actually reading it through her own FB account.

2. Okay let's say that what he said is an actual indicator that he was a threat to her (and I don't think it is). Why would you open up a channel of communication between a woman and the man that she is supposedly scared of? Yes a part of the apology order was that he re-friend her (although I thought for sure that another option was that she could appoint someone else to be added to Mark's friend list and that person would check to make sure the apology went up each day).

3. I put court approved in quote marks for a reason. The apology was totally written by someone other than Mark himself.

It seems clear to me that this was not about dealing with Mark Bryon's angry outburst but this was really about trying to embarrass him and make his wife out to be a poor terrified victim.

Imagine that for a moment. You say something on the internet and the person you can actually be ordered to post a pre-written apology to them by the courts. This doesn't sound too different from doctor's offices that try to sue forums for giving bad reviews of their practices or restaurants trying to force a site to take down a negative review of their food.

Sure you can argue that what he said was wrong but once you get into the realm of legally forcing him to read a pre-written apology as a way to correct it you are dancing way too close to Free Speech for my taste. And speaking of the letter here is is from his Facebook page (I had to go back to February 25 on his timeline to find it.):

"I would like to apologize to my wife, Elizabeth Byron, for
the comments regarding her and our son Jonathon which were posted on my Facebook wall on or about November 23, 2011. 1 hereby acknowledge that two judicial officials in the Hamilton County Domestic Relations Court have heard evidence and determined that I committed an act of domestic violence against Elizabeth on January 17, 2011. While that determination is currently being appealed, it has not been overturned by the appellate court. As a result of that determination, I was granted supervised parenting time with Jonathon on a twice weekly basis. The reason I saw Jonathon only one time during the four month period which ended about the time of my Facebook posting was because I chose to see him on only that single occasion during that period. I hereby apologize to Elizabeth for casting her in an unfavorable light by suggesting that she withheld Jonathon from me or that she in any manner prevented me from seeing Jonathon during that period. That decision was mine and mine alone.

I further apologize to all my Facebook Friends for
attempting to mislead them into thinking that Elizabeth was in any manner preventing me from spending time with Jonathonan, which caused several of my Facebook Friends to respond with angry, venomous, and inflammatory comments of their own."

Here's a few other links about this: