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.

Filed Under: arena, first amendment, free speech, police, social media, wisconsin


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Sep 2015 @ 9:36am

    Considering he was arrested for it, I'm skeptical any good cops had to endure it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Sep 2015 @ 9:47am

    I am going to make a living off this stuff

    My new job is going to be posting this on every police departments social media pages I can find. $35k multiplied by 100s of police departments equals profit!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 30 Sep 2015 @ 9:49am

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

      Ok, I posted my response before reading the full article. I will leave off the racist junk.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 30 Sep 2015 @ 12:14pm

        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.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          DigDug, 30 Sep 2015 @ 12:20pm

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

          Just mention that the CDC is on the way to quarantine the local patrol station due to a severe outbreak of Swine Flu.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            JoeT, 30 Sep 2015 @ 12:25pm

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

            Why is it that your typical prosecutor finds it so hard to indict the sort of cops that do these things? Perhaps we should mail them bread and mustard, so they can make some ham sandwiches.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 1 Oct 2015 @ 8:33am

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

      Seems legit! Get some troll lawyers involved *cough* insert obvious name here *cough* and I congratulate you on becoming the latest winner of the american dream. Well done Sir!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Frankz (profile), 30 Sep 2015 @ 9:54am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 30 Sep 2015 @ 1:14pm

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Sep 2015 @ 10:00am

    He was originally convicted by a local jury,

    Every jury member is a fucking idiot not worthy of being a citizen.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 30 Sep 2015 @ 12:59pm

      Re:

      > Every jury member is a fucking idiot not worthy of being a citizen.

      They successfully found a jury of his peers.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 30 Sep 2015 @ 10:01am

    If you can't deal with the public, from the best behaved to the worst, in a civil and reasonable manner, a job that involves interacting with them on a regular basis is probably not the best career to get into.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Violynne (profile), 30 Sep 2015 @ 10:04am

    Good thing Facebook's all about turning off the hate speech.

    Not only will cops actually be looking to curb real crime, no one gets arrested illegally.

    Maybe there is a silver lining to forcing people to keep their mouth shut.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      TruthHurts, 30 Sep 2015 @ 12:32pm

      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".

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 30 Sep 2015 @ 1:53pm

        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!

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Adam (profile), 30 Sep 2015 @ 10:11am

    Cost

    The settlement is only part of it. How much did it cost the taxpayers to actually do the arrest, the judges, officers, clerks, the prosecutor...so on an so forth... and they paid that whether they won or lost.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Sep 2015 @ 10:21am

    Only in America.

    Only in the US could you get away with shit like that.
    Keep your dumb shit in your country, stop trying to make it a global default because internet.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      minijedimaster (profile), 30 Sep 2015 @ 1:56pm

      Re: Only in America.

      ^Tough guy troll everyone! Check this guy out... keyboard warrior alert.

      Wtf are you even babbling about?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Bill Stewart, 6 Oct 2015 @ 5:35pm

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Sep 2015 @ 10:28am

    The law's literal language...

    ...and unlawful use of a computer and telephone...

    Did he actually use a dial-up connection? If the answer is no that charge becomes ridiculous as written. Another example where a law has not caught up with current technology.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Uriel-238 (profile), 30 Sep 2015 @ 12:20pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      minijedimaster (profile), 30 Sep 2015 @ 1:58pm

      Re: Wishful thinking.

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

      It will in the town of Arena Wisonsin.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Uriel-238 (profile), 30 Sep 2015 @ 9:31pm

        That's not a lot of money on the town scale

        How do you figure? It's not going to bankrupt the town, or even force it into austerity.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Bill Stewart, 6 Oct 2015 @ 5:41pm

        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.)

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Sep 2015 @ 12:50pm

    "settling with Smith for $35,000."

    So the lawyers get 34,998 and Smith gets a cup of coffee?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    RR, 30 Sep 2015 @ 12:58pm

    only a settlement

    He could have got more at trial, but both sides knew he wouldn't get through process without calling the judge and jury something racist.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Mark Wing, 30 Sep 2015 @ 1:06pm

    In the words of Ice-T:

    "Freedom of speech--that's some motherfucking bullshit. You say the wrong thing, they'll lock your ass up quick."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    dogwitch (profile), 30 Sep 2015 @ 1:46pm

    maybe the cops can clean house on all the bad cops....

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Padpaw (profile), 1 Oct 2015 @ 12:46am

    I wonder if he assaulted them with his staring eyes as well.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Oct 2015 @ 5:29am

    "The use of some four-letter words in the course of doing so is never a crime."

    Maybe not, but it sure showed the intelligence level of the person who wrote it. I wonder if that has anything to do with crime?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Guardian, 1 Oct 2015 @ 5:32am

    all i have to say is

    oink oink

    BACON!!!!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Oct 2015 @ 5:33am

    Devils advocate question

    If these exact words were screamed in the middle of town, would it be a chargeable offense? I love free speech, but stupid needs to be conked on it head sometimes.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 1 Oct 2015 @ 1:20pm

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Guardian, 1 Oct 2015 @ 5:33am

    @28

    intelligenc eya say ..he got 35 grand settlement what did you get being polite?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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