She was a white supremacist who obsessed over a police department relentlessly – possibly neglecting her daughter in the process – but Elisha Strom was still wrongfully arrested for the contents of her blog.
And The Washington Post agrees in an editorial published earlier this week:
In a nearly year-long barrage of blog posts, she published snapshots she took in public of many or most of the task force’s officers; detailed their comings and goings by following them in her car; mused about their habits and looks; hinted that she may have had a personal relationship with one of them; and, in one instance, reported that she had tipped off a local newspaper about their movements.
Predictably, this annoyed law enforcement officials, who, it’s fair to guess, comprised much of her readership before her arrest. But what seems to have sent them over the edge — and skewed their judgment — is Ms. Strom’s decision to post the name and address of one of the officers with a street-view photo of his house.
All this information was publicly available, including the photograph, which Ms. Strom gleaned from municipal records.
Ms. Strom is not the most sympathetic symbol of free-speech rights. She has previously advocated creating a separate, all-white nation, and her blog veers from the whimsical to the self-righteous to the bizarre. But the real problem here is the Virginia statute, in which an overly broad, ill-defined ban on harassment-by-identification, specifically in regard to police officers, seems to criminalize just about anything that might irritate targets.
It should not be a crime to annoy the cops, whose raid on Ms. Strom’s house looks more like a fit of pique than an act of law enforcement. Some of her postings may have consisted of obnoxious speech, but they were nonetheless speech and constitutionally protected. That would hold true right up through her last blog post, written as the police raid on her home began at 7 a.m.: “Uh-Oh They’re Here.”