Man gives up on Facebook apology, still not jailed

An Ohio man ordered by a court to apologize to his estranged wife every day for a month on Facebook stops early, but remains free. His wife's attorney is disappointed.

Screenshot: Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

I can't find much precedent for a court telling someone they must post Facebook apologies.

It seems like a very light punishment. Copy and paste has come a long way. Perhaps judges don't know that.

However, Mark Byron of Cincinnati, Ohio, was told to post a daily Facebook apology to his wife, after he had previously written such things as: "If you are an evil, vindictive woman who wants to ruin your husband's life and take your son's father away from him completely -- all you need to do is say you're scared of your husband or domestic partner and they'll take him away."

You may have guessed that they are going through a difficult divorce.

In January, Byron was told he could avoid jail if he posted to Facebook an apology--which had been written by the magistrate. However, after 26 days, he stopped.

According to the Associated Press, it had suddenly occurred to him that this was all a violation of his First Amendment rights.

Indeed, his attorney declared: "The First Amendment not only protects your right to speak, but it also protects your ability to remain silent."

Yesterday, a judge decided that he wouldn't send Ford to jail for transgressing the court's order, as perhaps 26 days of Facebook apologies had been enough.

To some, the original court order might have smacked of having to write "I will not spit in class" 200 times as a punishment. Does that sort of humiliation ever work? Even if it's in a public setting?

Moreover, what if this had set a precedent for courts to force people to say all sorts of things in the public sphere? How about: "Judge Jeffries is the finest judge in these parts of Arizona"? Or perhaps: "I will not ever again expose myself to the local cat community"?

One person, though, is reportedly disappointed that Ford did not receive jail time for his sudden refusal to post on Facebook. That would be his wife's attorney.

I can find no evidence, however, that Mrs. Ford has posted any feelings of disappointment on her Facebook page.

 

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