Magistrate Paul Meyers has ordered Mark Byron to apologize to his estranged wife Elizabeth Byron for a Facebook comment he posted late last year. Mark was sentenced to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine, but to avoid both, the magistrate gave him the option to pay back child support and post an apology on Facebook. Mark was told he had to keep the apology on his Facebook profile for 30 days. Furthermore, he was forbidden to close down his Facebook account and had to friend his wife or someone of her choosing so they could check that the terms of the deal were being upheld.
The magistrate actually wrote the apology for Mark and then included it into the sentence. Here's the message Mark needs to post on Facebook every single day for 30 days straight:
I would like to apologize to my wife, Elizabeth Byron, for the comments regarding her and our son [name withheld] which were posted on my Facebook wall on or about November 23, 2011. I hereby acknowledge that two judicial officials in the Hamilton County Domestic Relations court have heard evidence and determined that I committed an act of domestic violence against Elizabeth in January 17, 2011. While that determination is currently being appealed, it has not been overturned by the appellate court. As a result of that determination, I was granted supervised parenting time with [our son] on a twice weekly basis. The reason I saw [our son] only one time during the four month period which ended about the time of my Facebook posting was because I chose to see him on only that single occasion during that period. I hereby apologize to Elizabeth for casting her in an unfavorable light by suggesting that she withheld from me or that she in any manner prevented me from seeing [our son] during that period. That decision was mine and mine alone. I further apologize to all my Facebook Friends for attempting to mislead them into thinking that Elizabeth was in any manner preventing me from spending time with [our son], which caused several of my Facebook Friends to respond with angry, venomous, and inflammatory comments of their own.
In June 2011, Mark was charged with and found guilty of civil domestic violence against Elizabeth. She was granted a temporary protection order and primary custody of their son while he was allowed supervised visits twice a week. He has appealed that conviction, and the appeal is still processing. A divorce between Mark and Elizabeth is also pending. In November 2011, Mark posted the following comment on Facebook, according to court records from Cincinnati, Ohio:
If 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 or domestic partner and they'll take him away!
Mark had blocked his wife from accessing his Facebook profile but Elizabeth still managed to discover the comment. She thus filed a motion with the court saying that Mark had violated the protection order, which stated he was prohibited from "causing plaintiff or the child of the parties to suffer physical and/or mental abuse, harassment, annoyance or bodily injury." Though the post didn't name Elizabeth, Meyers agreed that it violated the temporary protection order granted to her and the couple's son, and hence the sentencing.
Responses by Facebook friends to his posting caused Elizabeth to be "afraid and concerned," according to court documents. Byron and his attorney, Becky Ford, say he made his comments out of frustration and never expected his wife to see them since she couldn't access his account. "Once he made the comments, some of his Facebook friends started making inflammatory comments which he had no control over," Ford told CBS News, and continued that his comments were "nothing other than free speech communication where he was venting truthful information."
Mark must appear in court on March 19 and show proof that he posted the apology. Otherwise, he will have to pay the fine and go to jail.
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