Ohio man sues city for arresting him over parody Facebook page


CLEVELAND — A man acquitted of a felony for creating a fake Facebook page that parodied a suburban Cleveland police department is suing the city, saying they violated his right to free speech.

Anthony Novak filed the lawsuit Tuesday against the city of Parma and three officers.

He created a Facebook page in March 2016 that appeared similar to the page of Parma’s police department, and he posted items suggesting police were performing free abortions for teenagers. The page also suggested it would be illegal to help the homeless for three months, and it had a recruitment post “strongly encouraging minorities to not apply.”

Parma police announced an investigation into the page the day it was created. Novak, 28, took the page down less than 12 hours after putting it up. Officers sent Facebook a letter requesting that the Menlo Park, California-based company shut the page down, and they issued a subpoena to obtain Novak’s identity.

Novak was charged with disrupting public services, a fourth-degree felony that carries a sentence of up to 18 months in prison. A SWAT team raided his apartment and confiscated his laptops, cellphones, tablets and gaming consoles.

Novak and his attorneys called it a “sham investigation” that violated Novak’s constitutional rights to free speech and protection from unreasonable seizure.

“This is one of the most extraordinary examples of government retaliation I have ever seen,” said Subodh Chandra, Novak’s attorney. “The idea that police officers would jail and prosecute someone for criticizing them is fundamentally abhorrent to who we are as Americans.”

A police spokesman did not immediately respond to calls and emails Wednesday seeking comment.

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