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Opening Arguments

You dirty . . . oh, never mind

I wonder how many people even know that 17 states and two U.S. territories have "criminal libel" laws. Probably not Juan Mata of New Mexico, who was found guilty of that crime for carrying a picket sign that called a police officer a liar and a dirty cop and could be sentenced to a year in jail. This passage caught my eye:

Postings on the Internet have led to criminal libel cases in other states. In December 2003, Wesley Meixelsperger of Kansas was given a year's probation after pleading guilty to posting false and disparaging remarks about his ex-wife on his website.

That same month, police in Greeley, Colo., seized the computer of college student Thomas Mink, whose "Howling Pig" website carried a doctored photograph depicting a professor as a member of the rock group Kiss. Police told Mink he was being investigated for "felony criminal libel." Mink sued in federal court; the criminal investigation was dropped.

This is a legal question I don't know the answer to (any lawyers care to weigh in?), but does the Internet erase legal boudaries the way it does geographic and political ones? If someone in Indiana, say, writes something on the Web that "criminally libels" someone in New Mexico, can N.M. authorities seek extradition?

Posted in: Current Affairs