WISCONSIN –Police arrested a high school student at school last Friday after he allegedlyput the face of the school’s athletic director on a sexually suggestiveliquor poster and tacked the poster on a school bulletin board.
LaCrosse Police Lt. Bob Berndt, who is handling the case, did not return a callseeking comment. But he told The Associated Press that the Central High Schoolstudent was being accused of defamation.
La Crosse Tribune identified the student asCarter Broer, 18, of Coon Valley. Police said Broer denied being involved in theincident, according to the La Crosse Tribune article.
Cindy Broer, Carter Broer’s mother,said yesterday that she did not want to comment on her son’s arrest untilafter speaking with an attorney.
Deputy District Attorney LoraleeClark confirmed the case had been referred to her office. Clark said no chargeshad been filed against the student. The student is scheduled to appear in courtMay 23 and a charging decision will be made at that time, shesaid.
As for criminal defamation charges, ”It’srelatively rare,” Clark said. ”I’ve had a few cases over thelast five years.”
Police said Broer was arrested after he usedschool computers to retrieve a parody ad featuring Captain Morgan rum and tosuperimpose the athletic director’s picture over the face of a man in thead, The Associated Press reported.
In the ad, the man has a scantilyclad woman with her legs wrapped around his waist as he fondles her breasts,according to The Associated Pressarticle. The poster,which was posted on the bulletin board in the school’s common area, quotedthe athletic director as saying, ”I love Captain Morgans,” Berndttold The Associated Press.
Broer was released from the La CrosseCounty Jail five hours after being booked on police accusations of defamationand bail jumping, The Associated Press reported. Broer posted a $1,500 cashbond.
The Associated Press reported that Broer was cited in Januaryfor driving after his license was revoked.
Central High SchoolPrincipal Tom Barth did not return a call seeking comment. But Barth told TheAssociated Press, ”We felt it was certainly in poor taste. We felt thatthe student crossed the line. We felt it was a defamatory picture of ouradministrative team.”
According toWisconsin law, defamation isa Class A misdemeanor. The law defines defamatory matter as ”anythingwhich exposes the other to hatred, contempt, ridicule, degradation or disgracein society or injury in the other’s business oroccupation.”
All 50 states have civil defamation laws thatallow victims of allegedly defamatory statements to seek compensation fromspeakers. Criminal defamation laws are different in that they allow the state tofine or imprison speakers of defamatory statements. Seventeen states, includingWisconsin, currently have criminal defamation laws, according to a December 2005update on criminal defamation statutes by the Media Law ResourceCenter.
In Utah, a legislative effort is underway to strike down thestate’s criminal defamation statutes. Meanwhile in Colorado, a student whopolice arrested and threatened to charge under the state’s criminal libellaws is challenging the constitutionality of the laws. The case,
Mink v. Salazar, is still pending in afederal appeals court.