Internet Cartoon Creator Targeted by Washington Police Internet Cartoon Creator Targeted by Washington Police
Bad IdeasCartoon Culture

Internet Cartoon Creator Targeted by Washington Police

Remember Officer Bubbles, the Toronto cop who tried to sue YouTube because he didn’t like cartoons that satirized his abuses of power? Well, some police officers in the US are trying to outdo him in the crooked cop department. The prosecutor and police department of Renton, Washington are trying to arrest a person who used the animation software Xtranormal to create animated videos that exposed the Renton PD’s long history of misconduct. (One of the cartoons is posted above.)

Though the city’s name was never used in the cartoons, Renton police didn’t appreciate their dirty laundry being made public and claimed that the videos constituted “cyberstalking,” a felony that could earn the filmmaker five years in prison. Legal experts say the charge “absolutely does not apply” to the filmmaker, and have called the First Amendment-bashing behavior of the Renton PD an “extreme abuse of power.”

That hasn’t stopped the police from creating a search warrant (posted below) to go after MrFuddlesticks, the name of the YouTube account that posted the animated videos. A local Washington judge James Cayce rubber-stamped their warrant, which will force Google-owned YouTube to hand over information revealing the identity of the filmmaker.

Seattle TV station KIRO 7 originally reported the story and they’ve also filed a follow-up report. The Seattle Times also has an article about the story.

Unfortunately there’s no happy ending to this story, but at least everyone can have a good chuckle at the city of Renton’s quixotic attempt to ban satire in the United States.

Renton Parody Doc1 8

(Thanks, Jerrett Zaroski)

  • The Gee

    It sounds like such a stupid situation. Unless whoever is making the videos is sending them to the police department, why say he/she is cyberstalking? Unless there’s something I’m missing, this whole pursuit seems wrong.

    One thing which doesn’t make sense is why make a fuss about the cartoons since that only draws attention to the fact that they exist?

    How is it that Boneheads can have thin skin?

    Someone with some sense, like one of the city’s lawyers, should tell them to not continue pursuing it. The fact that they are and it has gotten this far is not encouraging for Free Speech.

    Granted, it is Renton, WA. But, It could be anywhere and suck just as much for good (and badly done) satire and parody that is put online or published/broadcast.

  • Boy, nothing warms my heart as a proud Washingtonian than seeing our cops acting in such a ridiculous manner.

    Don’t they have anything better to do? Like stop acting corrupt?

  • whippsersnapper

    Geez, they’re actually trying to ARREST the guy? Whatever happened to the first amendment? And shame on the judge for approving the warrant. I really don’t see how that video constitutes cyber-stalking. If those officers are trying to equate a (admittedly poorly-made) satirical dig at corruption with actual cyber-bullying, they’ve got another thing coming.

    • Jason

      It is rather embarrassing but due to the ever increasing militarization of our police force, it’s highly expected.

      • mitten

        what do you mean by “militarization”…by chance are you referring to small town cops (Redmond WA anybody) who drive swat/a-team equipped dodge chargers, while wearing tactical body Armour?

      • Jason

        Well yes that’s one of the many direct results but basically police hiring practices over the years. Police are treating situations like they’re in a war zone and requiring military experience is now a norm further strengthens this. Not that I’m against the military but only a fool would think a good police officer needs to have military experience.

        The motto is no longer to serve and protect.

      • whippsersnapper

        Well I wouldn’t say it has so much to do with militarization; the officers were acting more like immature junior high students (and in doing so, completely disregarding MrFuddlesticks’ rights AND abusing their power) than totalitarian enforcers.

  • No surprise here.
    Police usually act in the exact worst possible wrong way.

  • ShouldBeWorkin’

    Sounds like a disgruntled cop who did the animation.
    Folks,for some litigious people it’s not about having a legitimate winnable case but making life stickier and hell for the defendant. Even the perverse satisfaction of scaring them until, if & when, it is thrown out.

    I’m not a lawyer but watched alot of Perry Mason.

    BTW, Whatever happened to “Bubbles”?

  • tgentry

    This has the Streisand Effect written all over it. Job well done, Renton PD.

  • Maya A.

    What a shame. Some people just can’t take a joke. These guys are making honest, good-humored police officers look bad. Lets hope the First Amendment comes through for this guy.

  • Gerard de Souza

    No different than an editorial cartoon except animated.

    • Iritscen

      And 100x times more boring.

  • Is that “cyberstalking” or “whistle-blowing”?

  • 2011 Adult

    Aren’t those documents for private government use? Are you going to post my case for all to see if *I* ever get in trouble?!

    • US Court documents are, in most instances, completely public and legally available to anyone, either for free or a per-page duplication charge. Only in certain specific instances can such records be sealed and kept from view. If *you* do get in trouble, the docs will be available. If you’re a normal boring person, no one will care enough to dig into it.

  • Let us know how this turns out. If “MrFiddlesticks” gets in actual trouble, I’m going to yell in the mirror and then do absolutely nothing.

  • I hope this all works out.
    On a personal note, I was being viciously harassed, threatened and stalked online not too long ago, and it took WEEKS of me screaming and crying into the phone to get the police to do something (it was the Milwaukee PD).
    Some guy makes some harmless satirical videos and DOESN’T mention the name of the PD he’s making fun of, and they can’t get a search warrant fast enough.
    Serve and protect my ass. Actually, it’s more serve and protect THEIR ass! ;p

  • tom

    This will get thrown out of court, should they make an arrest. The cartoon maker will sue, and the city will pay him thousands. Who said there was no money in youtube cartoons?

    • Funkybat

      Not to mention that, if this actually made it to trial, the EFF, ACLU and any number of other groups would make life for Renton PD and the city government a living Hell.

      Trying to suppress free speech in the age of the Internet and user-generated content is the perfect way to cause MORE of that speech and negative attention to be directed against you.

  • Sid_the_Vicious

    Within the last day or two, it would appear that Judge Cayce, who signed-off on the original search warrants, has placed a stay on both of these search warrants.
    This stay was due to a motion by a local attorney, Harish Bharti.

    Judge Cayce has apparently scheduled a hearing for August 19th to hear arguments on this issue. The City Attorney has commented that this Harish Bharti’s motion does not mention a client; they are therefore questioning whether Bharti even has standing in this issue.

    Now, whether the warrant end up being quashed or not is, in my view at least, a moot point. The first search warrant yielded an IP address and an email address of the person who setup the YouTube account handle of “MrFuddlesticks”.

    The IP address in the affidavit applying for the second search warrant reveals that the YouTube account was applied for from IP address — this IP address belongs to a block allocated to WayPort, Inc., which was acquired by AT&T WiFi Services.

    AT&T WiFi Services. like Wayport before it, is in the business of supplying Internet (WiFi) connectivity to hotspots operated by restaurants, coffee shops, retail and other establishments. There are literally dozens of such hotspots in the Renton area.

    Even if the stay on the second search warrant is lifted, there is no guarantee whatsoever that the cartoon poster will be identified — for starters, the Gmail account in question — [email protected] –has been deleted. There is also no guarantee that Google will have the account information requested in its backups.

    Even if Google does have the account information, i.e. the IP address of the person who setup/used the Gmail account, there is no guarantee that this IP address will lead to a real, identifiable person. Remember, the person who uploaded the videos to YouTube used WiFi hotspots to setup the YouTube account; if they did the same when they setup/used the Gmail account, even
    if Google has the information, it may be of little to no use in identifying the party whose identity is being sought.

    The cruel irony here is that the Chief’s efforts to ‘remedy’ the situation have backfired spectacularly. Not only will he likely NOT determine the identity of the cartoon’s creator, but he has also managed to turn an internal, local, little-known issue into an international embarrassment.

    Almost no one was even aware of the videos’ existence until the Chief attempted to unmask their creator — now the entire world knows.

    Making things even worse, these affidavits, now public documents, outline in detail the real names and positions — not to mention peccadilloes — of those allegedly described in the videos.

    The Chief has stated that these parties are ‘humiliated’ — if anything, his own actions have only heaped further scorn and embarrassment on them.

    (Whoever advised the Chief to embark on this course of action needs to be fired.)

  • Sid_the_Vicious

    Further to my last comment, it now appears that the Renton PD has dropped their external investigation. They will concentrate on an internal witchhunt, I mean investigation to find that dastardly cartoonist.