JADEd Strom: Embattled cop blogger arrested again
The woman who spent a month in jail for publishing an undercover police officer's address was arrested March 27 for allegedly violating a court order.
"I have no idea what I did," say Bedford resident Elisha Strom. "They couldn't even tell me what I did. This is ridiculous."
Last year, Strom captured some ire from the Jefferson Area Drug Enforcement task force as well as some help from the American Civil Liberties Union with her I HeArTE JADE blog. She was arrested July 16 under an obscure state statute that the ACLU calls unconstitutional.
That law, which forbids publication of law-enforcement officers' addresses or photos with intent to harass–- even if the addresses came from government websites. For instance, Charlottesville and Albemarle publish citizens' real estate records, but cops who can prove such online information is a threat can now petition the court to have their address removed– thanks to a new law from Delegate Rob Bell.
In exchange for a plea agreement that reduced the Class 6 felony to a misdemeanor obstruction of justice charge, Strom agreed in October to stay away from JADE offices, officers, their homes, and Virginia State Police Special Agent Jason Trent, who investigated the case. She has a six-month suspended sentence in Albemarle, and a 60-day suspended sentence for obstruction of justice in Charlottesville.
The recent arrest involved a single officer showing up to arrest her with a warrant that did not specify how she violated the court order, says Strom. A document on file at the courthouse, however, claims that Strom followed JADE officers on March 23 from a point near their Charlottesville offices into Albemarle County in her green Toyota. But Strom scoffs at the claim.
"I'm not going to do something that sends me to jail," she says. "That's stupid. And I'm not stupid."
Adds Strom, "It's really interesting that I'm finding out what I did from a reporter."
Commonwealth's Attorney Denise Lunsford, who requested the authorization for the arrest, declined to specify whom Strom allegedly followed. "That will be presented in court," says Lunsford.
If a judge finds that Strom violated the terms of the plea, will she serve the suspended sentences? "It's really up to the judge," says Lunsford.
Strom, who acknowledges she was present at the Albemarle courthouse in Charlottesville during the morning in question, sounds a defiant tone.
"There's no description, no time, no officer," she says. "They're going to wait and see what I say about it and conform their story to that."
Strom also continues to write on I HeArTE JADE, and on March 23 posted a photograph of an unidentified man, along with an email purporting to be from an unidentified police officer that says, "If you wanted pics of my car, you could have just asked! No need to sneak around behind me...I would be happy to allow you to take pictures of my car for all to see. Have a safe day."
"What a coincidence," says Strom. "An officer sees me and makes an accusation I'm following him."
Strom says there's one consolation in that the most recent arrest was more civil than last July's, when she estimates approximately 10 officers stormed her residence. This time, she was released on a $2,000 unsecured bond.
"After jail, I went to the movies," she says. Her next court appearance is April 20.