“What Would Mrs. Grundy Say?” Has Nothing to Do with the Law: Scrutiny of the Restraining Order Case against Blogger and Political Activist Derek Logue as Reported by Writer Peter Schorsch

Posted on March 31, 2018


The law is a two-way street. Those who violate it are answerable to it. So, too, though, are those who exploit it. It’s canonical that administrators of law not play favorites. The defendant in the case this post scrutinizes was convicted of a sex offense against a preteen girl in 2001, and the author of this post, a would-have-been children’s writer, is ambivalent about the defendant’s cause, which is articulated here (and is not without valid and urgent points). The plaintiff in the case, however, is not a child. She’s an adult representative of the people whose job is to negotiate issues of concern to society, no matter how thorny or repugnant. And it’s this writer’s opinion that she has abdicated that responsibility and abused the law. Also criticized in this post is a self-styled reporter whose job is to relate facts without bias. It’s this writer’s opinion that he, too, has failed to meet his ethical duties.

No allegation is more prejudicial today than “abuse.” Forty years of slipshod and slapdash legislation, and the pumping of billions of federal tax dollars into police precincts and the court system are among the reasons. Priorities have been bought. And the propaganda that has motivated this investment has been no less effective at influencing the public.

“Abuse” isn’t an allegation these days; it’s Revelation—and skepticism is tantamount to heresy. The torch-bearing mob doesn’t answer to the system. It owns it.

Accordingly, attorneys for plaintiffs alleging abuse are free to exercise dramatic license, and both judges and cops know what’s expected of them and strive to please.

Journalists who report and comment on investigative and court findings in “abuse” prosecutions typically know the least about the law but may be the most arrogant in their judgments.

Enter Peter Schorsch, who introduced me to the restraining order case of Florida Sen. Lauren Book v. Derek Logue in a jaundiced account on the website Florida Politics, which bills itself as a “statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida.” Mr. Schorsch is its publisher.

Mr. Logue, the defendant in the case, was issued a permanent restraining order this month, based, apparently, on political speech, which is protected in our country above all other kinds. It seems his entitlements under the First Amendment were deemed negligible, however, because he committed the cardinal sin of profaning a woman—and because he’s a registered sex offender. Mr. Logue pleaded guilty to first degree sexual abuse of an 11-year-old girl 17 years ago. This is his account from his blog, Once Fallen:

I kissed an underage girl. She was somebody I knew, and I knew better. I am what you call a “situational offender.” I was arrested in 2000 and convicted in 2001 (I sat in jail a full year before my conviction). I served 37 months of a six-year sentence in an Alabama State Prison, and was released in April 2003. I never chose to become an activist, but after I spent years in vain [lying] low, working and paying bills, and bothering no one, I was targeted by local politicians determined to use registrants like me to further their careers. I was forced out of one residence formerly pre-approved by the authorities, and had to fight to keep my second residence. My activism was inspired by my struggle to survive.

That activism, Mr. Schorsch reports, has included R-rated criticisms of Sen. Book since 2009 on a variety of Internet media, as well as in-person protests of her positions at public events where Sen. Book was present. Mr. Logue is said to have “heckle[d]” her at one last year.

Although there’s no mention in Mr. Schorsch’s story of Mr. Logue’s having issued threats, brandished a weapon, or cast literal brickbats, Mr. Schorsch quotes Sen. Book’s restraining order petition as stating: “[B]ecause of the anger and hostility targeted at Ms. Book during the session by Mr. Logue, she had to be quickly escorted off stage by security for her safety.”

The logical non sequitur is obvious, but legal interpretation has been conditioned in “abuse” cases to treat alleged emotional impressions as incontrovertible facts. Why words from a distance required that Sen. Book be rushed off of a stage is a taboo question.

Plainly Mr. Logue has been implicated by implication—and not even his own implication.

Mr. Schorsch reports “he posted a video on Twitter entitled ‘You are a C**t’ that included lyrics saying he would ‘f**k up [Book’s] face.’” If Mr. Logue said he would “f**k up” Ms. Book’s face, then why does “Book’s” appear in brackets in Mr. Schorsch’s story? The referenced video is this one by Australian singer-songwriter Kat McSnatch:

It has nothing to do with Sen. Book, nor is Mr. Logue its author. The allegation is that the hyperlink republication of the video by Mr. Logue on Twitter implied violent intent and ignores context. Unreported by Mr. Schorsch, what Mr. Logue tweeted was this: “I think I found the official…Lauren Book theme song.” The meaning of the statement is unambiguous.

Even if it weren’t, though, implication is not a true threat, which must “communicate a serious expression of an intent to commit an act of unlawful violence to a particular individual or group of individuals” (Virginia v. Black). Nevertheless, Mr. Schorsch reports that a hyperlink to a cartoon was “deemed a credible threat to Book’s safety by the FBI and other law enforcement agencies.”

Here’s Mr. Schorsch:

Logue claims his lyrics, his website and in-person protests are within his First Amendment rights, though Book’s attorneys vehemently disagree.

Were the lyrics his? Are Sen. Book’s attorneys correct in their interpretation of First Amendment protections? These are questions to which a journalist might have pursued answers, particularly one who has fallen under criminal suspicion himself, as Mr. Schorsch reportedly has.

Instead Mr. Schorsch contents himself with quoting Sen. Book’s attorneys:

“To even flirt with the notion that Mr. Logue’s words directed at Lauren Book are anything less than profane insults or ‘fighting words’ would be nonsensical,” the argument reads. “Mr. Logue’s mission, which he continuously reemphasizes over several social media platforms…has been to target Senator Book because of her political views and her attempt to pass more legislature relating to violent sexual offenders, such as Mr. Logue.”

Without exception, “profane insults” are fully protected by the First Amendment, and the dated phrase “fighting words” (1942) hardly applies. Fighting words are those “which by their very utterance inflict injury or tend to incite an immediate breach of the peace” (Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire). In the age of HBO, there is no conceivable sequence of words Mr. Logue could have strung together from a distance of yards, possibly many yards, that could have inspired a brawl, and tweets to the world at large, for example, can never be qualified as “fighting words” (or “stalking,” a characterization Mr. Schorsch uses in his article’s headline). If Mr. Logue’s “mission” had been to criticize President Trump’s policies “over several social media platforms,” there would be no story. The allegations only survived scrutiny because Mr. Logue committed a sex offense in the distant past, which is “continuously reemphasize[d]” because it’s highly prejudicial. (The website Florida Bulldog reports that Sen. Book’s initial request for a temporary restraining order was rejected for “insufficient evidence showing she was in immediate danger.”)

Finally, Mr. Schorsch reports:

The court approved the restraining order, which requires Logue to stay at least 500 feet away from Book’s house and car, 1,000 feet from her person, and prohibits him from contacting her directly or indirectly in any way.

Finally, I have to wonder, has Mr. Logue ever been anywhere near Sen. Book’s “house and car”? From the reported facts, it seems improbable. So Mr. Logue has been indefinitely prohibited from attending public events to engage in constitutionally protected political protest, and he has effectively if not explicitly been prohibited from criticizing a politician by the court’s misinterpretation of harassment laws, which cannot be applied to one-to-many speech…even if it uses “bad words.”

Copyright © 2018 RestrainingOrderAbuse.com

*On his blog, Mr. Logue writes that in “2007, [he] received a partial pardon from the state of Alabama in recognition of [his] rehabilitation” and has “been ‘free’ for over 14 years without a single accusation or suspicion of re-offense.” He expresses the belief that the pardon signified “hope for redemption, even for those with the label ‘sex offender.’” It granted Mr. Logue the restoration of his “civil and political rights”—as long, apparently, as he declined to actually exercise them.