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Inmates Acted With Disbelief When Told Journalist Was In Jail For Writing A Blog

Posted on the 09 April 2014 by Rogershuler @RogerShuler
Inmates Acted With Disbelief When Told Journalist Was In Jail For Writing A Blog"Why are you here?" tends to be the most common question that inmates ask each other. Inmates in the Shelby County Jail usually reacted with disbelief when I told them I was in jail for writing a blog.
That's one of several new insights from "The Accidental First Amendment Martyr," an article by Versha Sharma at Sharma points out that issues in my case go well beyond the press; they have implications for anyone who might write critically about an individual or entity on the Web--at Facebook or Twitter, for example.
Here is an excerpt from the question-and-answer format:
How did other inmates respond when you said you were in for blogging?
People looked at me like I was crazy. Most Americans have a sense of what the First Amendment means, and I can’t tell you how many times people would say, “That’s wrong.” I never should have been in jail at all under the law. There’s just no provision for preliminary injunction in a defamation case. It runs contrary to First Amendment law that goes back to the 1800s.

As for the broader implications of the prior-restraint issues in my case . . .
Why do you think your case is important?
This is not just about journalists. It’s about anybody going on the Internet. There was a case similar to mine, Dietz v. Perez. Jane Perez had hired a contractor to work on her town home. She went on Angie’s List and Yelp and wrote a critical review and wound up getting sued. The contractor sought a permanent injunction [to get those posts removed], exactly like in my case, and the trial judge granted it. She got help from a group called Public Citizens out of D.C., and they got that injunction overturned.

What about jail food? We touched on that, too.
What was life like in jail?
Jail’s not supposed to be pleasant, and I can confirm that it isn’t. There were times I thought I wasn’t going to live through it. The inmates in general were nice to me, but it’s a volatile place where violence happens, and I was concerned on a regular basis about something breaking out. I lost probably close to 20 pounds. The Shelby County Jail—some of the meals are fine, but you just don’t get as much as you normally would. I’m tremendously grateful to be back home with my wife, Carol, and our two kitty cats and trying to get life back to normal again.

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