Judge refuses to dismiss case against student charged with criminal libel for Web site

UTAH — A juvenile court judge Tuesday denied an attorney’sattempt to dismiss a rare criminal libel case against a 17-year-oldbut immediately granted a request to appeal the ruling.

Milford High School student Ian Lake was charged with criminallibel in May after local officials discovered his personal Website, which called his principal, Walter Schofield, the "towndrunk" and featured other disparaging remarks about studentsand teachers at Milford High School. Police arrested Lake, seizedhis computer and held him in a local juvenile detention facilityfor seven days. He did not use any school facilities to createthe site.

Rick Van Wagoner, Lake’s attorney, told the court Utah’s little-usedcriminal libel law is "unconstitutionally overbroad and vague."The statute defines criminal libel as speech made with "illwill," a standard Van Wagoner said is constitutionally protectedfree speech. In most states, libel is a civil, rather than criminal,matter.

Judge Joseph Jackson rejected the claim but said there is enoughlegal uncertainty to warrant an appeal to a higher court. Thatappeal will be filed immediately, Van Wagoner said, and Lake willnot issue a plea in the case until the appellate court rules.

In separate cases, Lake faces a civil libel suit from Schofieldand has filed his own civil claim against Schofield and the schooldistrict. Lake serves as his own attorney in both civil cases.

Schofield is now principal at East High School in Salt LakeCity.

Lake currently lives in California with his grandparents.