Defamation / Reputation
Johnson v. Steele
Closed Contracts Expression
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Sergei Reznik, a blogger, was found guilty of three crimes: insult of government officials, bribery, and false testimony. The court sentenced him to 1.5 years in a general security colony.
Sergei Reznik gained fame for writing about government corruption in Rostov.
The first alleged crime occurred in August 2012. Reznik allegedly bribed a car mechanic to pass a government mandated car inspection without actually undergoing the inspection. The mechanic agreed but called the police on Reznik. The police arrived at the garage and arrested Reznik.
The second alleged crime was that Reznik paid Andrei Solodnikov, a civilian, to call him with threats on life. Reznik supposedly made the request to improve his image as a journalist. Reznik published audio recordings of the threats on his blog and named Solodnikov the perpetrator. Solodnikov then filed a complaint against Reznik in the police.
The third alleged crime was insult of a government official. On his blog, Reznik called a representative of an arbitration court, Ms. Soloveva, a monkey, a crocodile, a hen, etc. Reznik denied all three allegations.
Sergey Reznik, a journalist known for critical reporting on city officials, first filed police complaints when he had received threatening phone calls. The Investigative Committee ignored his complaints and began a proceeding against him, saying he was trying to draw media attention. The court found Reznik’s claims of receiving threats as false, siding with the prosecution who said Reznik had arranged the calls himself, even though the people who had called him were his rivals.
Reznik was tried under the Russian Criminal Code’s articles 306 (false testimony), 319 (insult of a government official), and 204 (commercial bribery). Reznik denied guilt in all three crimes.
Reznik’s lawyer argued that sufficient evidence did not exist to prove Reznik’s guilt. First, the video recording of Reznik offering a bribe does not show Reznik speaking at all. Second, when Reznik complained about threats on his life by Solodnikov, the police rejected his complaint because they could not locate Solodnikov. Yet, Solodnikov was present during the whole trial. The Pervomaisk Court rejected these arguments and sentenced him to 1.5 years in jail.
Reznik appealed the court’s decision on November 28, 2013. On April 15, 2014, the appellate court affirmed.
Reznik is under investigation for two more alleged crimes: insult of the former Prosecutor of Rostov and false testimony against a police investigator.
Decision Direction indicates whether the decision expands or contracts expression based on an analysis of the case.
Global Perspective demonstrates how the court’s decision was influenced by standards from one or many regions.
Case significance refers to how influential the case is and how its significance changes over time.
The case is significant because it establishes a worrying precedent whereby a journalist is imprisoned due to falsified (alleged by Reznik) evidence.
Let us know if you notice errors or if the case analysis needs revision.