Think Freely Media presents Common Sense with Paul Jacob

Should Doug Guetzloe go to jail for speaking his mind?

I say No.

That’s not State Attorney Lawson Lamar’s answer. Lamar tried to imprison Guetzloe for 14 years.

In 2006, Doug Guetzloe distributed a flyer about mayoral candidate David Strong to Winter Park, Florida, residents. It pertained to an embarrassing dustup Strong had with a neighbor. The police report Guetzloe quoted is publicly available. The alleged crime is not libel.

Lamar charged Guetzloe with violating Florida’s election laws. One is supposed to include a disclaimer with any paid electioneering communication saying it’s an electioneering communication. The flyer did not advocate voting for or against any candidate. Not that doing so should jeopardize anyone’s liberty either.

Guetzloe pled no contest, thinking any penalty would be trivial. But he was sentenced to 60 days in jail and $8500 in fines. The easiest path might still have been to just do the time and pay the fine. But Guetzloe has been fighting back, spending a small fortune on legal fees.

Late in 2008, his attorneys filed a motion with the U.S. Supreme Court, asking it to declare Florida’s Electioneering Communications law to be unconstitutional. A little earlier, a federal judge had restrained the State of Florida from enforcing that law.

There is only one right ruling here. The high court should uphold the right to freedom of speech.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

By: Redactor

3 Comments

  1. Timothy James Maki says:

    Freedom of speech is great. However it does not protect slander and liable. Therein lies the rub.

    If there was no personal malice or intent in this situation I think the lower courts should have ruled differntly. But why would someone go to such great lenghts to hang someone elses dirty laundry out for all to see? Sounds fishy to me. And to attempt to use the 1st Amendment to protect such an action is not what the Amendment was ment for.

    Be nice.

    Sincerely,

    Timothy James Maki

  2. Andrew Terhune says:

    The first amemdment isn’t needed to protect nice speach. It’s needed expressly so we can say things that aren’t nice to or about those in government.

  3. Rubicon says:

    If the publication was libel, that is the law that should have been pursued, NOT electioneering communication. Election laws were used because it required the state to prosecute, not the supposed victim, mayoral candidate David Strong. Strong was saved the costs of filing a civil libel action by convincing State Attorney Lawson Lamar to use election laws instead. Strong convinced the AG to use the citizens of Florida to pay for the legal actions rather than he file a libel suit on his own dime.
    One other thing is certain. Supposedly, plead deals save the taxpayers money. Yet when we look at numerous cases we find many innocent people taking the deal rather than spending their life’s fortunes to defend themselves. It just appears to be too costly to go to trial. The problem is, many people are actually accepting guilt, just to save their savings from total depletion. And many prosecutors know this so they use the clout of their offices to intimidate people into taking the deal.
    I do not know a better solution. I do know we must do better so average people do not accept deals they should never have been forced by circumstances to accept.
    In addition… think the New York Times… this “paper of record” published an article based on supposed anonymous sources, that implied John McCain had an affair w/ a pretty lobbyist. The only problem was, the accusation was based on here-say, innuendo, & rumor, but totally unsubstantiated by ANY facts at all.
    Personally, I think McCain should have sued. But as a “public” personality, the courts would have thrown the case out. At least that has been the track record of many courts.
    Damages were done though. Some actually bought it. Even though many of the meetings could never have happened since both parties were on opposite coasts when the tryst’s were supposedly taking place. The NYT never printed a retraction, nor did they ever place the report in any context.
    Their job for the Democrat party was done. They had done damage & caused McCain to focus on damage control rather than continue to expose the antics of his opponents.
    In this case, after a brief & modest press release denial, McCain just dropped it. He knew the NYT would invoke its First Amendment right, even though what they had printed was no where close to an actual verifiable news report.
    By using the AG’s office & Florida election laws, Strong simply called attention to his situation. By accepting the plea deal, Doug Guetzloe discredited himself. And that my friends was the intention of Strong & the AG.

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