Student accused of defaming administrator arrested, jailed
WISCONSIN -- Police arrested a high school student at school last Friday after he allegedly put the face of the school's athletic director on a sexually suggestive liquor poster and tacked the poster on a school bulletin board.
La Crosse Police Lt. Bob Berndt, who is handling the case, did not return a call seeking comment. But he told The Associated Press that the Central High School student was being accused of defamation.
La Crosse Tribune identified the student as Carter Broer, 18, of Coon Valley. Police said Broer denied being involved in the incident, according to the La Crosse Tribune article.
Cindy Broer, Carter Broer's mother, said yesterday that she did not want to comment on her son's arrest until after speaking with an attorney.
Deputy District Attorney Loralee Clark confirmed the case had been referred to her office. Clark said no charges had been filed against the student. The student is scheduled to appear in court May 23 and a charging decision will be made at that time, she said.
As for criminal defamation charges, ''It's relatively rare,'' Clark said. ''I've had a few cases over the last five years.''
Police said Broer was arrested after he used school computers to retrieve a parody ad featuring Captain Morgan rum and to superimpose the athletic director's picture over the face of a man in the ad, The Associated Press reported.
In the ad, the man has a scantily clad woman with her legs wrapped around his waist as he fondles her breasts, according to The Associated Press article. The poster, which was posted on the bulletin board in the school's common area, quoted the athletic director as saying, ''I love Captain Morgans,'' Berndt told The Associated Press.
Broer was released from the La Crosse County Jail five hours after being booked on police accusations of defamation and bail jumping, The Associated Press reported. Broer posted a $1,500 cash bond.
The Associated Press reported that Broer was cited in January for driving after his license was revoked.
Central High School Principal Tom Barth did not return a call seeking comment. But Barth told The Associated Press, ''We felt it was certainly in poor taste. We felt that the student crossed the line. We felt it was a defamatory picture of our administrative team.''
According to Wisconsin law, defamation is a Class A misdemeanor. The law defines defamatory matter as ''anything which exposes the other to hatred, contempt, ridicule, degradation or disgrace in society or injury in the other's business or occupation.''
All 50 states have civil defamation laws that allow victims of allegedly defamatory statements to seek compensation from speakers. Criminal defamation laws are different in that they allow the state to fine or imprison speakers of defamatory statements. Seventeen states, including Wisconsin, currently have criminal defamation laws, according to a December 2005 update on criminal defamation statutes by the Media Law Resource Center.
In Utah, a legislative effort is underway to strike down the state's criminal defamation statutes. Meanwhile in Colorado, a student who police arrested and threatened to charge under the state's criminal libel laws is challenging the constitutionality of the laws. The case,
Mink v. Salazar, is still pending in a federal appeals court.
Central High School, news, Wisconsin