CS 107 Introduction to Data Processing

Spring 2006

Section 1 - Mon & Wed - 1:00PM to 2:20PM

Weblogs and First Amendment Rights

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Software Exercises

Due date: 2/13/06

The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States reads as follows.

Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Read the following article and answer the following questions in a document that you create in MS Word. Bring a print out your answers to the following questions to class on 2/13/06.

  • Is the judge in the article correct in sending the young ladies in the pictures posted on the weblog to jail? why or why not?

  • Is this a violation of the girls' First Amendment rights?

  • Should weblogs be subject to protection under the First Amendment?

Original article can be found at: http://www.firstamendmentcenter.org/news.aspx?id=16384

Mich. judge ridiculed on teens' Web site strikes back

By The Associated Press

TROY, Mich. A judge who sentenced three teenagers to probation for being drunk at their high school prom had them jailed after he saw them drinking and ridiculing him on a Web site one of them created.

"I told them, 'If you think this gives me any pleasure, you're wrong,'" Oakland County District Judge Michael Martone said after sentencing the last of the girls, Amanda Senopole, to 10 days in jail last week.

"You know, it's just a crying shame," Martone said. "I work my butt off trying to help kids like this, trying to figure out what works. And then they do things like this."

Senopole and eight other Troy Athens High School students were caught drinking at their prom last May. They were arraigned before Martone on misdemeanor charges of being a minor in possession of alcohol.

Martone, who had appeared at Athens High days before the prom to warn graduating seniors against drinking, sentenced the students to probation, fines, court costs, community service and alcohol-education classes. As a condition of their probation, he ordered them not to drink and to avoid places where alcohol is served or consumed.

Several months later, Martone was looking on the Internet for a news release on one of the many alcohol-prevention programs he has promoted during his 13 years on the bench. He entered his own name into a search engine and came to a site belonging to Mary Meerschaert, one of the Athens students he had sentenced.

His computer screen showed Meerschaert, Senopole and some of the other students who had appeared before him in court making obscene gestures, chugging shots of Jagermeister liqueur, posing with beer cans stacked nearly to the ceiling and vomiting into toilets.

The Web site's headline included an abbreviated obscenity directed toward the judge.

Meerschaert, by now enrolled at Michigan State University, had used a digital camera to create an Internet photo gallery with students appearing passed out and couples playing a drinking game among its more than 400 images. Many of the picture captions were profane and directed at Martone.

The gallery also showed Senopole, Meerschaert's roommate, and another co-defendant in the prom incident, Rachel Stesney enrolled at the University of Detroit Mercy drinking at parties at Michigan State.

"They made a mockery of the legal system," Martone told the Detroit Free Press for a story published on Jan. 27. "I had to do something."

The judge showed the Web site to police and probation officers. It became legal evidence for charging the three women with contempt of court "for disobeying my direct order not to consume alcohol," Martone said.

Meerschaert and Stesney appeared before Martone on Dec. 23. Meerschaert admitted that her Web site did use profanity aimed at Martone, and that she had a drinking problem.

He sentenced her to 30 days in the Oakland County Jail, then sentenced Stesney to 15 days. They shared a cell during Christmas and New Year's Day.

Senopole appeared before Martone last week, telling him: "I have a new roommate now. She doesn't drink." She also said she earned a 3.6 grade-point average in the fall at Michigan State, and pledged she would introduce an alcohol-education program in her dormitory.

Martone doubled Senopole's hours of community service, to 100, but gave her less jail time than Meerschaert and Stesney 10 days and let her serve them one at a time, on weekends, "so it doesn't interrupt your studies."

Of the nine students who drank before the prom, two others also have served jail time for later alcohol infractions.

Cheryl Stesney would not let her daughter comment. Martone, she said, "let his anger get out of control. He was just so hurt and embarrassed by that Web site."

Meerschaert's mother, Polly, agreed. "I do feel this is all about vengeance. I won't say my daughter didn't make a mistake. But the minute it became personal, the judge should've removed himself," she said.

"Judge Martone's a fair man," Senopole's father, Tom, said outside the courtroom last week. "She was just in the wrong crowd, wrong time, wrong place."

Last Updated: 1/31/06