MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A Wisconsin high school student on Friday won a federal lawsuit she brought against a sheriff who threatened her with jail time early in the COVID-19 pandemic if she didn’t remove social media posts saying she had the virus.
U.S. District Judge Brett Ludwig ruled that Amiyah Cohoon’s constitutional right to free speech was violated when a Marquette County sheriff’s deputy in March 2020 demanded the Oxford teenager take down her Instagram posts post or face arrest.
“The First Amendment is not a game setting for the government to toggle off and on,” the judge wrote. “It applies in times of tranquility and times of strife.”
The Wisconsin Institute for Liberty and Law filed the lawsuit against Marquette County Sheriff Joseph Konrath and a patrol sergeant. Luke Berg, the attorney who filed the case, said “this decision underscores that First Amendment rights cannot be dispatched with in an emergency. More importantly, law enforcement has no business trying to regulate the social media posts of local teenagers.”
Samuel Hall, attorney for the sheriff and the Marquette County Sheriff’s Department, said at the time the lawsuit was filed that the girl’s messages “caused distress and panic within the school system and law enforcement acted at the request of school health officials in a good faith effort to avoid unfounded panic.”