WILL Sues Marquette County Sheriff for Free Speech Violation

Sheriff, Patrol Sergeant threatened teen with arrest over social media post

The News: The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) filed a lawsuit in federal court Thursday against Marquette County Sheriff Joseph Konrath and a Patrol Sergeant for violating the First and Fourteenth Amendment rights of an Oxford, Wisconsin teen. The lawsuit results from a March incident where Marquette County law enforcement threatened the teen and her parents with arrest unless an Instagram post was removed.

The Quote: Deputy Counsel Luke Berg said, “There are no circumstances that would allow law enforcement to police social media in this way. At a moment when civil liberties need to be guarded most, the Marquette County Sheriff must be held accountable.”

Background: Rick and Angela Cohoon’s teen daughter Amyiah developed a severe respiratory illness in March after a spring break trip to Florida. After one visit to a local hospital, her symptoms worsened and she ended up at a hospital in Madison. Amyiah tested negative for COVID-19 in Madison, but doctors told her that she likely had the virus but had missed the testing window. Amyiah posted updates to Instagram about this experience, including a post after she returned from the hospital that she had “beaten the coronavirus.”

Then, on March 27, a Marquette County Patrol Sergeant was dispatched to the Cohoon’s home to demand the Instagram posts be removed or face arrest for disorderly conduct. The Instagram posts were removed after the threat from law enforcement.

WILL issued a demand letter to Marquette County Sheriff Joseph Konrath on April 3, requesting an apology and acknowledgement that the Cohoons have a First Amendment right to freely express themselves on social media. Sheriff Konrath has not met either demand.

WILL’s lawsuit was filed in the Eastern District of Wisconsin.

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