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Colorado man charged with seldom-used criminal libel

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  1. Libel and Privacy
A Colorado man was charged this week under the state's rarely used, 45-year-old criminal libel statute for allegedly doctoring photos of a woman…

A Colorado man was charged this week under the state’s rarely used, 45-year-old criminal libel statute for allegedly doctoring photos of a woman to show her, in the local police chief’s words, "in a compromising position," The Pueblo Chieftan reported

Robert Ezekiel Tafoya would face a maximum of 18 months in prison if convicted as charged, The Chieftan said.

The newspaper did not identify Tafoya’s accuser, and Pueblo County District Attorney Bill Thiebaut declined to describe her relationship with 51-year-old Tafoya. But Thiebaut explained the basis for the charge: “The investigation showed that the defendant pasted pictures of the face of one person onto the body of other persons and published or disseminated the pictures electronically to others,” he said, according to The Chieftan. “We believe it impeached the reputation (of his accuser) and those pictures were being used to ridicule her.”

Colorado’s criminal libel law aims to punish anyone who would "impeach the honesty, integrity, virtue or reputation" of someone else through the distribution of false information, The Chieftan reported. Such laws are generally used infrequently in the states where they remain on the books, 44 years after the Supreme Court sharply curtailed their reach in Garrison v. Louisiana.

But just last week a Wisconsin woman was convicted under that state’s criminal libel statute; she faces up to nine months in jail.