Utah youth now faces criminal defamation for online comments

UTAH — A former highschool student who eluded criminal libel last month for comments he made on hisWeb site now is facing a defamation charge. Beaver County prosecutorsserved Ian Lake, 19, with a subpoena on Dec. 9 ordering him to appear forarraignment in January. Lake faces up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine ifconvicted of the charge.The charge was brought based on actions Laketook while attending Milford High School. In 2000 he created a Web site where heclaimed his principal was the “town drunk” and was having an affairwith the school’s secretary. He also listed his classmate’ssexual histories on the site.Lake was initially arrested and jailed in May 2000. At that time, prosecutors charged him only under the criminal libel law. However, in April prosecutors added the criminal defamation charge but postponed prosecution pending a state supreme court decision on the rarely used 126-year-old criminal libel statute. The libel statute was thrown out last month after the court ruledit was written overly broad by not incorporating the “actual malice”standard for public officials and public figures as adopted by the U.S. SupremeCourt in 1964. The statute also failed to require that the statements befalse.According to a Dec. 10 Deseret News article, David Lakesaid he is hopeful his son will avoid prosecution because the county attorney,who brought the defamation charge, was defeated last month in his bid forre-election.“I’m hoping that this new prosecutor will havethe good sense to basically just drop the issue,” Lake said.TheStudent Press Law Center and other media organizations that filed afriend-of-the-court brief are now asking the incoming county prosecutor to dropthe new charges.

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