Prosecutor closes case against teen

UTAH ‘ Criminal defamation charges were dropped against a former Milford High School student in January, ending the case brought against him for derogatory comments he posted online about classmates and his principal.

Ian Lake, now a resident of California, was arrested and charged with criminal libel, slander and defamation after commenting on a friend’s Web site in 2000 about several students’ sexual histories and accusing his high school principal of being the ‘town drunk.’ Lake spent seven days in a juvenile detention facility.

Fifth District Juvenile Court Judge Hans Chamberlain dropped the misdemeanor criminal defamation of character charge on Jan. 7. If found guilty, Lake could have faced six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Newly sworn-in Beaver County Attorney Von Christiansen closed the case against Lake, now 19, on the heals of a Utah Supreme Court decision last fall that cleared the boy of criminal libel under a 126-year-old statute, which subsequently was ruled unconstitutional. The court said the statute did not apply the ‘actual malice’ standard, which requires a person accused of libel either knew the challenged statement was false or was reckless in verifying its accuracy. The slander charge against Lake had been dropped earlier.

The Lakes were left with $50,000 in legal fees, although Ian was represented by court-appointed attorneys. David Lake, Ian’s father, told The Associated Press that former county attorney Leo Kanell, who sought the charges, ‘wasted a lot of tax money in his personal pursuit of my son.”