Ill. village trustee to get name of anonymous online commenter

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

CHICAGO — A Cook County judge has ruled that the identity of an anonymous poster to a suburban newspaper's Web site must be released to Buffalo Grove Village Trustee Lisa Stone.

Stone maintains that the commenter, known only by the screen name “Hipcheck16,” defamed her 15-year-old son online after last April's village elections in a posting on the Daily Herald Web site.

In his ruling yesterday, Circuit Court Judge Jeffrey Lawrence entered a protective order barring disclosure of the poster's identity to anyone but Stone, her attorneys and the Cook County sheriff.

The court received the name and address of “Hipcheck16″ in September after ordering Comcast, the commenter's Internet provider, to turn it over. Stone says she needs to know the identity of “John Doe” in order to pursue a possible defamation lawsuit.

The Daily Herald reported that Doe’s attorney, Mike Furlong, cited the First Amendment in arguing to keep secret his client's identity.

“The issue is political,” the newspaper quoted Furlong as saying. “Anonymous political speech in a forum dedicated for the exchange of ideas. And that's precisely the sort of speech that should be protected by the first amendment.”

Stone's attorney, Stephen L. Tyma, disagreed.

“This was a statement intended to injure somebody, not the candidate but her son,” Tyma was quoted by the newspaper as saying.

Furlong says he may appeal the order. Both sides are to return to court Nov. 18.