Man Gets $35k Settlement After Arrest For Posting 'Fuck The Fucking Cops' On Department Facebook Page

from the 1A-ftw dept

It’s becoming quite a period of time for the profane when it comes to interacting with law enforcement, apparently. We had just recently discussed one man’s victory in federal court over a town that didn’t appreciate him writing “Fuck your shitty town bitches” on a speeding ticket he’d mailed in. Well, back in 2012, another delightful human, Thomas Smith, was apparently arrested for being an ass on the Arena, Wisconsin, Facebook page.

In July 2012, the Village of Arena in Wisconsin posted a note on its Facebook page announcing a slew of arrests. Smith then posted “Fuck ths fucking cops they ant shit but fucking racist basturds an fucking all of y’all who is racist,” as well as “Fuck them nigers bitchs wat you got on us not a dam thing so fuck off dicks.” He was arrested for disorderly conduct and unlawful use of a computer and telephone. He was originally convicted by a local jury, but that decision was overturned by the Wisconsin Court of Appeals, which ruled Smith’s First Amendment rights were violated.

Um, yeah, memo to the police in Arena: being a jerk to police, calling them names, and using deplorable language is no more a violation of the law than blatantly mispelling the insults themselves and using the kind of grammar that I actually kind of wish would get people thrown in the clink. Likely the jury was presented with what Smith had written and decided he was a jerk and ruled against him. That doesn’t change the fact that the arrest and conviction were both unconstitutional, of course. And, after Smith and his attorney sued the village, the village agreed, settling with Smith for $35,000.

Smith and his attorney, Tom Aquino, sued the village for an unspecified amount. Wednesday, the village settled with him, according to Aquino.

“We have always believed that the defendant’s liability was clear. Federal and state courts have routinely held that the right to free speech is not limited to polite speech alone,” Aquino wrote in a blog post. “In our country, we are entitled to criticize our government with passion. The use of some four-letter words in the course of doing so is never a crime.”

It can’t be easy to be a good cop and have to endure a profane tirade on a public town Facebook page, but that doesn’t excuse the violation of basic civil rights in retaliation. And Smith’s speech, while lacking poetry and panache, is certainly protected. It’s about time law enforcement realizes that profanity is still free speech so that they can stop costing municipalities this kind of settlement money.

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Comments on “Man Gets $35k Settlement After Arrest For Posting 'Fuck The Fucking Cops' On Department Facebook Page”

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35 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: I am going to make a living off this stuff

I don’t know; calling a completely non-Asian police force a bunch of chinks, or an all-Irish police force a bunch of kikes, or similarly mislabeling them with impolite language seems like an amusing way to yank their chains.

Especially since some percentage them would be the sort to actually use such language, and be highly insulted if it were applied to themselves.

Just don’t call an actually black-dominated police force a bunch of niggers, or a mostly-white force a bunch of crackers (or peckerwoods, or whatnot). Get the epithets wrong on purpose.

Frankz (profile) says:

Did he post on the police facebook page and they went out and arrested him, or did he post on the city/town (village? wtf is that?) facebook page and then the little snowflake town councilmen/commissioners/mayor file charges and order the police to go arrest him? If the local prosecutor files charges and issues an arrest warrent, the police don’t have much say in the matter.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

The police had plenty of say in the matter. They could choose to “lose” the order every time it was submitted. They could choose to arrest the local prosecutor for corruption/abuse of power/whatever you call a government employee issuing blatantly illegal orders. They could choose to tell the prosecutor to go fuck himself.

The fact is that they were responsible for arresting him.

TruthHurts says:

Re: Re:

“Maybe there is a silver lining to forcing people to keep their mouth shut” – If you are referring to getting large cash settlements for time spent in jail, then I can agree.

Politically correct isn’t. Arresting people for saying something that hurts someone’s feelings or makes them angry is illegal.

If I were to say I hate haters. Does that make me a hate criminal? No – I just expressed how I felt.

If I say that gay people cannot be married, does that make a hate criminal? No – I just expressed my religious views and personal opinion.

If a hater or gay person gets angry and says they’re going to kill me because I hurt their feelings, does that make me a hate criminal? No. But it does give the police a valid reason for arresting the dumb asses who fell for the provocation that some people use.

The world isn’t a pre-school class.
Not everyone is a winner.
Not everyone is “special”.
There is only room for 1 person to get first place, everyone else is a loser.

The world needs to quit trying to protect Billy and Suzies feelings, let them learn to filter out what people say that they don’t like.

This statement is especially true to the pissant little morons running ISIS and Al-Quad-ea. They’re all just a bunch of baby rapers who are mad that they cannot control the thoughts and lives of everyone in the world. They’re rabid dogs that should be put down, permanently.
All this touchy feely bullshit that they try to force on the public just makes the public more vulnerable to the effects of people saying “upsetting things”.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Not everyone is a winner.
Not everyone is “special”.

Shows how dumb you are, everyone in my kids little leage team got a trophy last season making them all winners! Then when they performed in the school play every student got a certificate for “best acting ever!” makes them all winners!

When Forrest was unable to to write an essay about how his mom said life is like a box of chocolate the teacher just told everyone to not worry about the essays and gave them all As! Winners I tell you, every single student has a 4.0 GPA!

Just the other day my kids teacher told him that he was special for having two legs unlike Bobby who is special for not having two legs. Everyone has their special moments making everyone special. She went on to explain that since everyone is special everyone is a winner and deserves awards for being so special!

Now pardon me so I can get back to the little league game so I can watch the tieing play. I see trophys for everyone again this season! Whoo Hoooo!

Bill Stewart says:

Re: Only in America.

I’m confused about what you mean.
– Cops all around the world deserve to have things like that written about them (not all cops, just the barrel-fulls that got spoiled by the bad apples.)
– In most of the world, it’s nominally legal to write things like that.
– In most of the world, cops would just beat you up or charge you with something bogus instead of officially charging you for insulting them. (There are exceptions, like Thailand and probably China.)
– In most of the world, if the cops do charge you for something, they’ll make sure that you get beaten up in jail.
– In most of the world, including most of the US, good luck with suing the cops for breaking the law. Sometimes you can do it, either here or in Europe, and sometimes you’ll even win, but it’s pretty rare.

Yes, Facebook makes it easier for idiots to say ill-advised things to the wrong people, and get beaten up for it, and the culture hasn’t evolved quite enough for the cops to just reply with an equally vulgar message, or an excessively polite message that implies they’re watching, delete the scribble and block the user.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Wishful thinking.

That Mr. Smith’s first amendment rights are protected should be assurance for the rest of us that our right to say what we want is protected.

Only I suspect that awarding settlements from taxpayer-supplied funds isn’t going to slow down this kind of arrest.

And I also suspect that reasoned, polite words of dissent are less protected than emotional outbursts featuring profanity and poor grammar.

Bill Stewart says:

Re: Re: Wishful thinking.

It might, it might not. According to Wikipedia, the 2010 Census said there were 834 people and 323 households, so that’s about $100/household. If that gets paid for by a tax increase, a reasonable fraction of the town folks are likely to be annoyed and tell the police to behave themselves. If it comes out of the existing police budget, that’s $35K in overtime the various cops won’t be getting, and some of them might be annoyed enough to learn something. (Yeah, ok, that’s likely.)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Devils advocate question

Not really. You might be able to get something to stick concerning noise levels, obstructing traffic, etc. But there would be no de jure chargeable offense for saying fuck, as opposed to any other word.

De facto the police would probably try a lot harder to get something to pin on you if you were shouting fuck, as opposed to something else.

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