ACLU offers: But JADE-watcher fears retribution
Elisha Strom sat in jail for a month for publishing the address of a Jefferson Area Drug Enforcement officer. Now the American Civil Liberties Union is offering its assistance in the case.
"This is a classic free speech issue," says Kent Willis, ACLU of Virginia executive director. "Ms. Strom has taken information that's publicly available and put it on a website. A federal court has already struck down as unconstitutional a nearly identical law in Washington."
Strom was arrested July 16 for publishing the address and home photos of one of JADE's officers on her blog, i HeArTE JADE. She's tracked the activities of the drug task force since October 2008, published photos of them at work and given them nicknames like "Porn Star," "Longhead" and "Pringle."
She was charged under Virginia code §18.2-186.4 that prohibits publication of law-enforcement officers’ addresses or photographs with the “intent to coerce, intimidate, or harass.”
She was arrested by Special Agent Jason Trent with the State Police's Bureau of Criminal Investigations, who did not immediately return a reporter's phone call.
Strom disputes that her blog harasses cops, and the ACLU agrees.
She hasn't decided whether to accept the ACLU's offer of assistance, which could be legal representation or an amicus brief. "I'd be interested in talking to them," she says from her home in Bedford County. "The only thing I'd worry about is making JADE mad."
While she says she doesn't feel threatened by the drug task force, she does feel intimidated. "They're already upset with me," she says. "I don't want to end up with 40 new charges because I'm getting support."
Strom has said her interest in JADE stems from the arrest and trial of her estranged husband, white separatist leader Kevin Strom, who was charged with child porn possession, enticement of a minor and intimidation of a witness after Elisha found him masturbating in front of a photo of young girls. An investigator on the case also works for JADE.
The enticement and intimidation charges were thrown out of federal court in October 2007. Kevin Strom blamed the charges on "false accusations" by Elisha, but pleaded guilty to one count of child porn possession in January 2008 and served 23 months in prison.
Elisha Strom was released on $7,500 bond August 13 and is scheduled to appear in Albemarle General District Court September 17.
And the i HeArTE JADE blog is still up. "I'm not allowed to use a computer," says Strom. "It's not active– but it went from hundreds of viewers a week to thousands a day."
Correction: The court in which Strom will appear was misidentified in the original story and has been corrected.