Free Speech

An Iowa Man Wins His Free Speech Suit After Being Charged for a Facebook Rant Against a Cop

Jon Goldsmith was charged with third-degree harassment after calling Deputy Cory Dorsey a "stupid sum bitch" online.

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Jon Goldsmith of Red Oak, Iowa, was charged with third-degree harassment after calling Adams County Sheriff's Deputy Cory Dorsey, among other things, a "stupid sum bitch" on Facebook. Nearly a year after the incident, Goldsmith has won his free speech lawsuit against the sheriff's office.

As Reason previously reported:

According to the lawsuit, Jon Goldsmith of Red Oak witnessed Adams County Sheriff's Deputy Cory Dorsey stop a motorist and conduct a drug dog search on a vehicle at a festival in July 2018. No drugs were found. Goldsmith also said he saw Dorsey body-slam another man. When Goldsmith later saw the man's mugshot on Facebook, he shared the picture in a post criticizing Dorsey.

Goldsmith called Dorsey out by name and accused him of being "butthurt" that the drug search was fruitless. He also called him a "stupid sum bitch" and offered to hire Dorsey to walk his dog and "pick up his shit" if he were fired over the incident.

A few weeks later, Goldsmith was accused of writing "a threatening and vulgar statement about Cory Dorsey on Facebook" by an affidavit. Sergeant Paul Hogan, Dorsey's supervisor, had filed charges of third-degree harassment against Goldsmith on behalf of his subordinate.

The charges were short-lived after Goldsmith's attorney managed to get them dropped for violating the First Amendment. A year later, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed suit on his behalf against the county, Dorsey, and Hogan, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa.

Goldsmith won his case, according to a Monday press release.

The Adams County Sheriff's office will pay Goldsmith $10,000 in damages, which includes the cost of the lawyer he hired to defend himself in court. A judge also ordered the deputies to stop charging civilians for criticizing its law enforcement, as they've done at least two other times.

Officers will be receiving ACLU-approved training on free speech and implementing an ACLU-approved social media policy.

"As the Court's injunction today confirms, people have a constitutional free speech right to criticize their government. Police are not allowed to charge people with crimes because they annoy the police or say things the police disagree with—on social media like Facebook, or otherwise. There is no exception because someone expresses anger in inartful ways, causes offense, or uses curse words," said Rita Bettis Austen, the ACLU of Iowa's legal director.