Judge Punishes Student for Tweeting

scott_ruzalCan’t make this stuff up.

The Centre Daily Times reported yesterday that Scott Ruzal, a 20-year old student from New Jersey, was sentenced to at least 35 days in jail after a policeman told the judge who had presided over the case that Ruzal had been tweeting nasty things about cops while he was in the court room.

Penn State police officer Matthew Massaro said Scott Ruzal, 20, wrote: “When all else fails, try ignorance. I watched four cops lie on a witness stand today and I didn’t say a word.”

That was at 1:35 p.m. March 16, the day a jury found him guilty of the charges.

The trial was for charges of DUI and resisting arrest from an incident that occured in April 2008. (Yes– 2008.)

Ruzal, of Fort Lee, N.J., was charged in April 2008 after police spotted him driving erratically. He was found to have a blood alcohol level of .280 percent after refusing to voluntarily submit to a portable breathalyzer and a blood test. Police say Ruzal was kicking and hitting police, refusing to cooperate and had to be restrained on the East Parking Deck on campus.O

OK, sure, the kid shouldn’t have been drinking and driving. But isn’t it a clear violation of free speech to punish him for the tweet? It seems like the police were personally offended by the content of the tweet, not the fact that he was tweeting.

It’s ridiculous. This is what Ruzal had to say.

Ruzal apologized for his actions last year, but defended his Twitter postings. “That wasn’t anything I said out of disrespect of the court,” Ruzal said. “It was just an expression of a particular sentiment that I was feeling at the time.”

He said he thinks he posted the statements on Twitter while the jury was deliberating, but is sure he wasn’t doing it from the defendant’s chair.

Ruzal’s Twitter presence is pretty significant- he’s following nearly 2,000 people and is followed by 684. His tweets are protected but we’ve already requested access. We will be following this story as it develops.

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