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PRESS RELEASE


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Wednesday, May 17, 2017 


On-line Publishers, Authors File Suit to Contest Constitutionality Of Ohio Law Criminalizing Expressions Of Protected Political Speech On The Internet

 

Cleveland, Ohio -- In a federal lawsuit brought by the UCLA School of Law and an Ohio attorney, three Ohio-based Plaintiffs are challenging a recently enacted Ohio law (HB 151) that purports to criminalize constitutionally protected political and other expression on the Internet on First and Fourteenth Amendment grounds.

Raymond V. Vasvari, Jr. of Cleveland has teamed up with Eugene Volokh of the Scott & Cyan Banister First Amendment Clinic UCLA School of Law to represent Tom Zawistowski, on behalf on the The Portage County TEA Party, Inc., Joseph Mismas, on behalf of Plunderbund LLC, and John Michael Spinelli, an freelance author who reports on politics in Ohio and beyond.

The three Plaintiffs and their counsel are suing, in their official capacity, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, Portage County Prosecuting Attorney Victor Vigluicci and Franklin County Prosecuting Attorney Ron O’Brien, to contest the constitutionality only of the prohibitions in HB 151 [O.R.C. § 2917.21(B)(2)], which became effective August 16, 2016.

Filed in The United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio Eastern Division, the lawsuit does not contest the prohibition in the law on threatening expression, just that part of the law against abusing and harassing speech.

The three Plaintiffs, who routinely engage in constitutionally protected speech that may be considered provocative by some, are concerned with the following clause in HB 151 as it relates to opinions they may express online about politicians and/or elected officials: “ No person shall knowingly post a text or audio statement or an image on an internet web site or web page for the purpose of abusing, threatening or harassing another person.”

In their capacity as authors and publishers who write, or whose members write and disseminate through the Internet, articles and opinion pieces regarding politics generally and Ohio politics specifically, including articles that from time to time include invective, ridicule and strong language intended to mock, lampoon or call into question the actions, motives and public policy positions of various figures – including without limitation politicians, and the incumbents in and contenders for various public offices. Plaintiffs fear these articles and opinions put them at a credible risk of criminal prosecution under Section 2917.21(B)(2) as when they condemn, sharply criticize or mock government officials and other public figures - should police or prosecutors “believe” their posts were written with the purpose of abuse or harassment.

Having been the subject of, and/or witness to, acts of political, financial and personal retribution by politicians, political parties and elected officials simply for disagreeing with the “party line” or taking a public stand against their candidacy or policies, the Plaintiffs have no doubt that the politicians and elected officials will quickly move to abuse the subjective nature of this statute, using the force of law, to “punish” those citizens they view as enemies. Furthermore, the exemption of “media” from this statute is considered by the Plaintiffs to be an outrageous and audacious attempt to place Ohio’s citizens in a second class, a lower class, in regards to their 1st Amendment Rights to free speech and particularly free political speech - which must not be allowed to stand.

As enumerated in HB 151, a violation of the statute constitutes a misdemeanor of the first degree upon a first offense, and a felony of the fifth degree upon any subsequent offense. In Ohio, misdemeanors of the first degree are punishable by a fine of up to One Thousand Dollars ($1,000.00) and incarceration of no more than six months. Felonies of the fifth degree are punishable by incarceration of six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven or twelve months, and a fine not to exceed Two Thousand Five Hundred Dollars ($2,5000.00).

If Plaintiffs succeed, their prayer is for Section 2917.21(B)(2) to be ruled unconstitutionally overbroad and in violation of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, as made applicable to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment.

Plaintiff Plunderbund Media L.L.C. is an Ohio corporation with its principal place of business in Columbus, Franklin County, Ohio, that publishes an internet web log under the name of Plunderbund that focuses on Ohio and national politics. Articles are carefully researched and factual and use humor and ridicule to make rhetorical points.

Plaintiff Portage County TEA Party is a not for profit Ohio corporation with members in Portage County, Ohio, who are political activists and commentators and frequently engage in robust online discussion of local, state and national politics.

Plaintiff John Michael Spinelli is currently an author for Plunderbund and publishes articles through the blog which, while factual and carefully researched, also use humor and ridicule to make rhetorical points. Mr. Spinelli has been a journalist and reporter for more than fifteen years and in that time has written thousands of articles about people, politics and government both in Ohio and nationwide.

 

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PRESS RELEASE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Friday, January 6, 2017
CONTACT: Tom Zawistowski, 330-592-1848, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

Timken Defeats Borges in Dramatic Upset for Ohio Republican Chair

 

AKRON - Tom Zawistowski, President of the We the People Convention, today congratulated Jane Timken for her dramatic upset victory over incumbent Matt Borges for the powerful position of Ohio Republican Party Chairperson.  The original vote was 33 for Timken and 32 for Borges with one State Central Committee member not in attendance. A total of 34 votes was required for either of the candidates to win outright. After a second vote, which again ended up 33-32 in favor of Timken, a recess was taken. Before a third vote could be taken, it was clear that Borges could not get the votes to win and a deal was made for Timken to be the new Ohio Republican Party Chairperson while Borges would step down and become "Chairman Emeritus." 

 

Zawistowski said "This is a HUGE victory for those of us in Ohio who voted for Donald Trump in November and who are sick and tired of crony and corrupt politics. Jane Timken promises to end the mafia like tactics of Kasich and Borges and restore the integrity of the Ohio Republican Party by following it's own by-laws, holding fair elections, using the Republican National Party Platform as measuring stick for anyone wanting to run as a Republican, and serving the needs of the County Republican Parties who have been mostly ignored in recent years. The bottom line is the the Ohio Republican Party will act as political party again instead of a tool to serve a few powerful elected officials. That is what American citizens want, a party that represents them and their needs and not just the needs of the rich and powerful. We wish Jane Timken all the best in her new position, but she can be assured that the Ohio TEA Party will hold her accountable for her actions going forward just as we did with Borges."

 

This was a proxy battle between Republican President-Elect Donald Trump who supported Timken and Ohio Governor John Kasich who supported Borges. With the defeat, Kasich's position in Ohio political circles is severely reduced as a lame duck Governor who has now lost control of the Ohio Republican Party.  Neither Kasich nor Borges supported Trump for President and they were accused of actually withholding ORP resources from the Trump campaign in Ohio in order to make him lose. Borges staffers even publicly embarrassed Trump Ohio Chairman Bob Paduchik weeks before the election causing Paduchik to remove Borges from having anything to do with the campaign. Paduchick has since become the Co-Chair of the Republican National Committee (RNC) which further complicated the issue of Borges remaining ORP Chairman. Timken won in large part because Republican State Central Committee members could not see how the Ohio Republican Party could operate successfully going forward while being at odds not just with the Republican President but also with the Republican National Committee.

 

 

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