In a screen grab from YouTube, Mark Byron speaks to a WLWT-TV reporter after… (WLWT-TV )
In a court decision that could exist only in our modern age, a man in Ohio was given the choice of posting a court-approved apology to his estranged wife on his Facebook page every day for 30 days, or facing up to 60 days of jail time.
Mark Byron, a photographer in Cincinnati, chose the forced Facebook apology, until suddenly he didn't. On day 26 he abruptly stopped posting the lengthy apology written by the court magistrate, saying it violated his right to free speech.
Byron told the Associated Press he was willing to go to jail to protect his rights, but it turns out that it won't be necessary. Judge Jon Seive of Hamilton County Domestic Court said Monday that the man had posted the Facebook apology long enough, the AP reported.
Byron is relieved, the report said, but the outcome of his case sheds no light on whether it is legal for a court to force someone to post a statement on Facebook.
If Byron had refused to post the Facebook apology at all, or if he had gone to jail after refusing to post it for the remaining days, well, then we might have learned something about where the law comes down on this.
"The idea that a court can say, 'I order you not to post something or to post something' seems to me to be a 1st Amendment issue," free-speech expert Jack Greiner told the Cincinnati Enquirer in February.
The unusual court decision came down after Byron posted a nasty note about his wife on his Facebook wall that accused her of being "an evil, vindictive woman" who wanted to ruin his life and take his son away from him.
In Byron's case, his action was grounds for potential jail time because he had already been found guilty of domestic violence against his wife, and the court had given her a temporary protection order.
Byron had blocked his wife from seeing his Facebook page, but she still learned about the post and proceeded to file a motion stating that the post violated the protection order, which prohibited her husband "from causing the plaintiff or the child of the parties to suffer physical and/or mental abuse, harassment, annoyance or bodily injury."
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