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ACLU blasts review of Facebook page on R.I. lawmaker

PROVIDENCE — The Rhode Island chapter of the ACLU is blasting Attorney General Peter Kilmartin for his review of a state senator’s Facebook lampooning of a fellow lawmaker, saying that any suggestion of a criminal probe casts a pall over First Amendment rights.

‘‘While it may be discourteous and even offensive, the Facebook page is not by any stretch of the imagination a criminal enterprise,’’ ACLU executive director Steven Brown wrote. “Satirizing public officials, however coarsely, constitutes a well-worn application of free speech rights.”

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Amy Kempe, a Kilmartin spokeswoman, said Friday that the office had received the letter. ‘‘The ACLU does not dictate how this office proceeds with cases,’’ she said.

The Facebook page skewered Democratic state Representative Scott Guthrie of Coventry, who went to police to complain that it constituted cyber-harassment. The page was called ‘‘Scott Guthrie State Representative’’ and had a profile picture featuring a heart and a mustache, an apparent reference to Guthrie’s distinctive facial hair. Among the posts were comments suggesting Guthrie was a ‘‘political hack’’ out to ‘‘feed his union buddies.’’

Police subpoenaed Facebook and an online service provider and found that the page was run by Republican state Senator Nicholas Kettle, who also represents Coventry. The page was taken down Wednesday; Kettle has not apologized for it.

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