An Ohio magistrate gave Mark Byron a difficult choice: Go to jail, or post a long-winded public Facebook apology to his estranged wife -- every day, for the next 30 days.
"It's outlandish," Byron told The Cincinnati Enquirer. "I'm afraid to do anything. People are even fearful that Facebook can be regulated by a judge."
But a judge affirmed the magistrate's ruling, and found the Facebook apology fitting in Byron's case. Byron had blasted his wife in an earlier rant on Facebook, which violated a restraining order, the judge ruled.
Mark Byron, frustrated by divorce and child-custody proceedings, lashed out in a Facebook post in November. The post read in part:
"[I]f you are an evil, vindictive woman who wants to ruin your husband's life and take your son's father away from him completely -- all you need to do is say that you're scared of your husband..."
Byron's post, and comments by his friends, made estranged wife Elizabeth Byron feel "afraid," court documents state, according to the Enquirer. The post violated a restraining order that barred Mark from causing his wife "mental abuse, harassment, [or] annoyance," the court found.
Critics say the court-ordered Facebook apology flies in the face of the First Amendment, because it's court-compelled speech. Further, Mark Byron had blocked his wife from viewing his Facebook page -- meaning, she somehow found a work-around to see it.
"She wasn't harassed, because she deliberately sought this out," an attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation opined in the Enquirer.
Regardless, Mark Byron is complying with the court's order, and has posted the court-approved Facebook apology every day since the ruling. The five-paragraph apology is more than 200 words long, and can be seen at Mark Byron's Facebook page.
- Court Orders Man To Apologize To Estranged Wife On Facebook (Cincinnati's WLWT-TV)
- Domestic Violence: Orders of Protection and Restraining Orders (FindLaw)
- Browse Family Law Lawyers by Location (FindLaw)
- Harassment History Matters in Restraining Order Requests (FindLaw's California Case Law blog)