I really have no idea why this judge thinks he can regulate online media, but here’s the story:
A Chilton County Circuit Court judge recently jailed a man for a social media post that criticized the judge.
Court records related to the contested divorce of Carlos and Renee Ortigoza show Judge Sibley Reynolds jailed Carlos Ortigoza, an Air Force National Guard veteran, for contempt of court after he apparently violated an order from Reynolds not to post about his case on social media.
Reynolds originally ordered Ortigoza jailed for five days, but after Ortigoza served a day in jail, Reynolds had him released.
“I guess he felt guilty,” Ortigoza said. “To be quite honest, the entire ordeal is unbelievable.”
Records in the case show Reynolds ordered Ortigoza on March 18 to “refrain from negative posting on social media concerning his child’s mother.” Then, on July 18, Reynolds ordered Ortigoza to stop posting about the divorce.
On Aug. 3, Ortigoza said he posted on GoFundMe – a crowd-sourcing website in which people can solicit funds from the general public. In that post, he described his legal issues, provided his version of the dispute with his ex-wife and described Reynolds as “a corrupt judge.”
The next day, at a court hearing in his case, Ortigoza said his ex-wife’s attorney showed the GoFundMe page – which Ortigoza linked to his Facebook page – to Reynolds.
“He first started reading it out loud, like it was a joke,” Ortigoza said. “Then he got to the part where I said he was corrupt, and he read that to himself.
“When he finished, he asked if that’s how I really felt. I said it was. He said, ‘OK, five days in jail, I told you not to post on social media.’”
Attempts to reach Reynolds were unsuccessful. A person who answered his office phone said he was out of town.
Ortigoza said he had never been in jail prior to that night, but he did acknowledge making a mistake in posting derogatory information about his ex-wife.
“I shouldn’t have done that and I know it,” Ortigoza said. “I was just so angry and I let my emotions get the best of me. But I also know that Sibley Reynolds is wrong for what he’s done. We have freedom of speech, and that’s what a Facebook post is – my opinion, which is protected by the law.”
This isn’t the first time a judge found someone in contempt for posts on social media. In 2012, an 18-year-old was jailed for several days after she refused follow a judge’s order to delete her Facebook account.