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Timothy Turner, Revenge Porn Degenerate, Is an Unlikely Symbol of Free Speech

Though Timothy Turner posted sex ads of his ex-girlfriend and her daughter, he'll get off scot-free

Though Timothy Turner posted sex ads of his ex-girlfriend and her daughter, he'll get off scot-free

Timothy Turner of Mora had a fight with his girlfriend in the summer of 2013. To get back at her, the 50-year-old man-child took to Craigslist and posted pornographic ads as the ex-girlfriend and her minor daughter.

He included both of their cell phone numbers. Mom and daughter were soon receiving unwelcome dick pics and graphic propositions for sex.

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Turner, obviously, got caught. He was convicted in May 2014 under Minnesota's criminal defamation law, and slapped with 30 days in jail and a $900 fine.

But he fought the conviction, counter arguing before Court of Appeals Judge Denise Reilly that Minnesota's criminal defamation law is over-broad and unconstitutional.

When it comes to defamation, the United States Supreme Court has established that true statements cannot be punished. Speech is also considered "protected" as long as it was stated without malicious intent, if it was privileged information to start with, or if it concerns public interest or proceedings.

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.

Judge Reilly ultimately agreed with defense attorney John Arechigo's attack on the statute, overturning Turner's conviction and wiping the law clean of "criminal defamation." Because that was Turner's only charge, he's getting out of this whole mess scot-free.

In her decision, Reilly wrote, "Although appellant's conduct was reprehensible and defamatory, we cannot uphold his conviction under an unconstitutional statute."

That means the case, ultimately, wasn't about Turner at all. None of his Craigslist shenanigans would have actually fit under protected speech, since he lied to impersonate a woman and her daughter and was clearly motivated by revenge.

In Arechigo's opinion, there are no protections against revenge porn in Minnesota's laws right now. "That's obviously a problem," he says. "There seems to be a gap in the law, and the legislature really hasn't caught up with the advancement of social media over the past few years."

Limiting speech is inherently un-American, after all, but presumably so is directing a flood of nasty dudes to a young girl's cell phone. Arechigo says he hopes new laws passed on behalf of revenge porn victims will be narrow enough to avoid stomping on traditional areas of protected speech.

In response to Reilly's ruling, Rep. John Lesch (DFL-St. Paul) wants to convene a panel to reassess the state's options. Lesch proposes starting with the Cyber Rights Initiative's advice for drafting an effective revenge porn statute, which would include protections for selfies, penalize third-party distributors, and disregard the revenge pornographer's motives.

"There are over 15 states which successfully outlaw such gruesome behavior, and I believe we have the legal talent in Minnesota to accomplish the same," Lesch says.

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