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.