In the summer of 2013, Minnesota's Timothy Turner walked away from a fight with his girlfriend, petty revenge plot swirling in his head. He pulled up Craigslist and posted his ex's cell phone number into a pornographic ad, then he did the same with the contact info for her underage daughter. Internet dudes took it from there, bombarding the victims with dick pics and disturbing propositions.
When the criminal case got to court, no one argued that Turner wasn't actually a walking heap of sewage. No, Turner's brokedick status was not on trial here. What has been a matter of question, and what the Minnesota Court of Appeals finally had to rule on, was whether the state defamation law Turner was convicted under was constitutional. They decided it wasn't. This should serve as a reminder that even when something is as roundly terrific as the First Amendment, nothing in this life, other than cold pizza on a hungover Sunday afternoon, is perfect.
It is useful to remember that Turner is 50. After 18,000-odd rotations spent on this big blue ball of ours, he chose to respond to a grown-up situation with this lame and potentially dangerous prank. Now his name, Timothy Turner, age 50, of Minnesota, is scribbled all over the news, and hello there, potential girlfriends Googling Timothy Turner, who is not guilty of criminal defamation, just barely.
City Pages has a succinct explanation for exactly why the court had to side with Turner's attorneys: "The reason that Minnesota's criminal defamation law has been a thorn in the side of free speech attorneys for decades is that it imposed limitations on the defense of truth. In Minnesota, statements had to be totally true and 'communicated with good motives and justifiable ends,' which are pretty subjective standards."
Minnesota lawmakers wrote their defamation laws decades before Friendster was even a sketch on a cocktail napkin. State reps there introduced legislation this year to make behavior like Turner's a felony, then failed to pass it.
Timothy Turner is a sad little man. A sad little man who won't have to serve his 30-day jail sentence or pay the $900 fine. As the saying goes: There should be a law.
Some states are doing their best to help victims of bitter failed flings. The Dallas Morning News reports that Texas legislators are on the verge of giving victims of revenge porn new power to sue if someone posts nudes or sexually explicit images online in an effort to hurt them. There it is, Minnesota. Texas is out in front of you on women's rights.