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Criminal defamation charges against teen dropped

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Criminal defamation charges against teen dropped

  • Two months after a previous prosecution was declared unconstitutional, the county dropped a second prosecution over a former student’s offensive Web site.

Jan. 14, 2003 — A juvenile court judge dismissed a case against Ian Lake Jan. 7 after prosecutors requested that the latest set of criminal libel charges over the teen’s offensive Web site be dropped.

Previous charges against Lake were dismissed two months earlier, when the Utah Supreme Court declared the state’s 1876 criminal libel statute unconstitutional. Shortly before that decision, former Beaver County prosecutor Leo Kanell charged Lake under a more recent criminal defamation statute.

Von Christiansen, the newly-elected County Attorney who proceeded Kanell, reportedly told the court that in light of the high court’s decision, he would not pursue the second set of charges.

Media groups had urged Christiansen to drop the charges, arguing that further prosecution would serve no public purpose and would chill legitimate speech out of fear of prosecution.

The charges against Lake stemmed from a Web site on which the teen attacked students and administrators at his school in southwestern Utah. Lake was arrested and jailed in May 2000. He and his family have since relocated to California.

(Utah v. Lake; Counsel: Richard Van Wagoner, Snow, Christensen & Martineau, Salt Lake City) WT

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