Esrati “the ninja” featured in Wired Magazine

Hopefully, this won’t be my first and last appearance in Wired Magazine (and maybe next time they’ll even put my name in)- but, I was honored to be mentioned in my favorite magazine, Sept. 2010 issue., page 54:

My town council has banned me from attending its meetings because I criticized one of its members on Twitter. OK, OK, I called him a “fucking idiot.” Can they really do that?

It would be one thing if you’d been barred from a homeowners’ association or Rotary Club meeting—private organizations have carte blanche to bounce anyone who dares question their awesomeness. But local governments must act in accordance with a little doohickey called the First Amendment. That means they’re rarely allowed to bar people from their public forums.

The council has one shot at making its ban stick. “If they can show that the person would be very disruptive, that might work,” says David L. Hudson Jr., a scholar at the Vanderbilt University’s First Amendment Center. But unless you’ve wreaked havoc at past meetings—say, by tossing chairs or burning effigies—the council will have a tough time proving its case. The city of Dayton, Ohio, learned that lesson the hard way in 1997, after it was sued by a man who’d been kicked out of a public commission meeting for wearing a ninja mask. An appeals court ruled in favor of the ninja, finding that his menacing attire was a protected form of speech this despite the fact that everyone knows ninjas don’t talk.

Lawsuits are an expensive pain, so you should try to find a way of changing the council’s mind before resorting to the courts. Since your town elders are obviously Twitter fans, how about using the microblogging service to make them and fellow townsfolk aware that you’re in the constitutional right here? Just be polite about it—save the f-bombs for the next atrocious zoning blunder.

via Mr. Know-It-All: iPhone Fixation, Twitter Tantrums, iPad Snobbery | Magazine.

And to attest to the power of social media- Nate Driver and David Bowman both DM’d me before I’d had a chance to open my copy to tell me.

Bowman: @esrati. You made it into @wired for defending first amendment.

And then- Teri Lussier writes this: “Ha! Just reading abt @Esrati the Ninja in Wired 18.10 pg 54; OK, so YOU wouldn’t wear a ninja mask to mtg, but legally you could. Thx, David

And to clarify the story- the city arrested me and charged me with 4 fourth-degree misdemeanors, punishable by a max fine of $250 and 30 days in jail for each (total $1.000 and 120 days in jail possible). They lost in five different court decisions over 2.5 years. Finally the city settled for $100K and most of it went to pay my legal bills.

The Dayton Daily News totally muffed the story the first time- had to re-write the second day, and never gave me credit for being right.

My detailed account is here: Esrati, the masked man

Unfortunately, even though Mike Turner lost all five cases and was embarrassed on the stand, the court of public opinion gave him the win. The city commission still meets illegally and obfuscates the process.

It’s one of the reasons I keep running- and try to keep City Hall in line on this site.

If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed! If you wish to support this blog and independent journalism in Dayton, consider donating. All of the effort that goes into writing posts and creating videos comes directly out of my pocket, so any amount helps!

Leave a Reply

9 Comment threads
1 Thread replies
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
8 Comment authors
Pat MerrisDavid EsratiGary LeitzellBi Daniels (pizzabill)truddick Recent comment authors
Notify of
Drexel Dave Sparks

drexel has GOT to write an epic song about the Ninja vs. the Congressman.


I, for one, did not know that Ninjas don’t talk.
Very cool, though. A first amendment hero is a good thing to be.

Ice Bandit
Ice Bandit

….You heard the bartender. Last call for alcohol. Also time for our last number, a song the muse inspired the Old Bandito to author for banjer and guitar with a nifty solo by my dobro player Greasy Dick. It’s called the “Ballad of David Esrati” and we hope you like it…
This story happened not that long ago,
at a city meeting in southwest Ohio,
a dude went there protestin’,
meetings dark  and clandestine,
dressed like a warrior from feudal Edo.
The Mayor and commission weren’t impressed,
at the hooded way the protester was dressed,
went ahead and dropped the hammer,
and threw the Ninja in the slammer,
which led to years of  jurisprudential distress.
Who was the masked man in that ninja suit?
It’s the man the mayor would just love to shoot,
though his name’s David Esrati,
you’d have thought it was John Gotti,
with the Mayor’s lawyer posse in hot pursuit,
financed in full by the taxpayers’ loot.
Now if you want your constitutional rights,
be prepared for countless and costly legal fights,
your life they will disrupt
till’ you beatin’ and bankrupt,
if the city lines you up in its’ gunsights.
And if there is a legal indication,
five times appeals courts gave him vindication,
and despite the Mayor’s sad chagrin,
he granted Dave the win,
and the tab was picked up by the folks of Dayton.
The morale of this story is crystal clear,
if you don’t want the powerful sticking it in your rear,
the violations that are worst,
are of the Amendment that is first,
and fighting them may become your career.
Have courage and in conflict please stand tall,
for the city’s pride came just before their fall,
and the rights they ought protecting,
are the ones they are rejecting,
and the conflict is emotional and long haul.
Who is that Samurai with a hundred grand?
Though his barristers will wrest it from his hand.
The First Amendment we really need it
perhaps Mike Turner first should read it,
his bully act did bear bitter fruit,
he was whupped by the man inside the Ninja suit….
Thanks you. You’ve been a great audience. If you think you’ve had too much, you have. Don’t wanna’ see your picture on the cover of “Busted” magazine. And don’t forget to tip your barmaid……


Bandito, we’ve found your calling.
On a perhaps tangentially related matter, does David know that captcha is no longer cool?


Well done, Bandito!  Encore! Author!  I would like to cordially invite you to  come down to the South Park Tavern some Tuesday/Open Mic Night and having the world premier live performance of the “Ballad of David Esrati”.  We’ll even record it for you.  You pick the night, and I’m buyin’.

Gary Leitzell

The city commission still meets illegally and obfuscates the process.

Please elaborate on this comment. I haven’t seen you attend a single commission meeting or work session this year and haven’t seen your name mentioned in the minutes of those meetings or the two that I have been absent from. We post the commission agenda online every Monday before the meeting, we keep minutes for the work sessions which are attended by the DDN reporter, staff and a few citizens and the minutes are posted online about one week after the meeting. The commission meetings are posted online in visual format via the city web page. Please explain to me what is illegal about our meetings. If you want to come to one wearing a mask I would probably chuckle, acknowledge that you are present and then ignore it. You would want to be on time though because most meetings are wrapped up within 45 minutes or an hour. I believe one was only 16 minutes though. We have had a handful of “Executive Sessions” to discuss legal case updates and personnel/staffing issues that don’t need to be reported by the news media because they don’t require a vote of the commission. I can count the number of those on one hand. Is that what you mean by illegal meetings? If so, then you would be so disappointed by the nature of those meetings.
If you are willing to accuse, please be willing to do some research before doing so. People believe what you report and perceptions are based on it. Whether the information is accurate or not. You can always call me if you have questions. You know full well that I return your phone calls.

Pat Merris
Pat Merris

David, Today is the 11th of July, 2013. I was introduced to your blog last year and try to get to everything I can, but there is a lot to cover. When I came to this part of your reply to Mayor Leitzell, I thought it was from this week! I made the mistake of asking the West Carrollton City Council if I could start video recording their work sessions. I have been to all of them for the last two years as one of two residents that are consistently there. They were not happy with the suggestion. You can see their reaction on MVCC 7/9/13 West Carrollton Council online or on ch5 cable. I imagine they would have liked to throw me out along time ago. I would never have the nerve to do what you did. Way to go!!! Dayton is very lucky to have you. I would vote for you in a micro second if I could.