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Teen asks Utah high court to dismiss criminal-libel charge

By The Associated Press


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Ian Lake

(The Society of Professional Journalists, the Reporter's Committee for Freedom of the Press and the Student Press Law Center are lending their support to Ian Lake in his challenge of Utah's criminal-libel statute. The groups have filed a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of Lake with the state Supreme Court.)

SALT LAKE CITY — A teen-ager charged with criminal libel after posting nasty notes about his school principal on his Internet home page is taking his case to the Utah Supreme Court.

Attorneys for Ian Lake filed an appeal last week, challenging the constitutionality of the state's criminal libel statute and seeking dismissal of the class B misdemeanor charge against him.

"It's the same argument we've been making all along," American Civil Liberties Union attorney Stephen Clark said Aug. 3. "Utah's criminal libel statute, as far as we can tell, hasn't been changed since 1876. It doesn't incorporate the modern First Amendment requirements the U.S. Supreme Court has laid down in criminal libel cases. It's overly broad and punishes legal speech."

Lake, a former Milford High School student, was arrested and briefly jailed in May 2000 after posting an obscenity-laced Web page that, among other things, called female classmates "sluts" and referred to the principal as the "town drunk."

Then 17, Lake was charged with one count of criminal libel for his Web writings, becoming the first person in the state to be hit with the charge since 1987. It also marked the state's first case of criminal libel involving the Internet.

Lake's motion to dismiss was denied in 5th District Juvenile Court last December.

The Utah Attorney General's Office said the state would fight Lake's appeal.

"We plan on defending the law. Our position hasn't changed," spokesman Paul Murphy said.

In their appeal, Lake's attorneys argue Utah's criminal libel law is obsolete primarily because it fails to incorporate the "actual malice" standard the nation's high court spelled out in New York Times v. Sullivan in 1964.


Teen's lawyers urge Utah high court to throw out criminal-libel law
Under 1876 statute, Ian Lake was jailed, charged for using his Web site to call principal a 'town drunk,' allege that he was having affair with school secretary.  03.14.02


It's the 'principal' of the thing
Ombudsman One administrator takes high road in handling controversy over student newspaper; another takes wrong path by trying to squelch student expression.  07.11.00