A federal jury sided with former Milwaukee County Sheriff David A. Clarke in a trial over whether Clarke’s Facebook posts violated the free speech rights of a man who had shared a flight with Clarke to Milwaukee from Dallas. The verdict came in late on Monday night.
When his flight with Clarke landed in Milwaukee last January, Dan Black, 25, was detained by deputies because he had shaken his head at Clarke because he was wearing Cowboys gear when they were playing the Green Bay Packers in the playoffs.
After Black filed a formal complaint about how he was treated, Clarke put up two posts on the agency’s Facebook page that Black found threatening and intimidating including, “Cheer up, snowflake … if Sheriff Clarke were to really harass you, you wouldn’t be around to whine about it.”
Although Black was not arrested or cited, his attorneys argued that Clarke’s social media taunts were retaliatory and threatening enough to silence criticism of the sheriff. Black’s lawsuit also claimed the posts dissuaded him from ever again seeking redress of a grievance against a powerful government official.
The jury of five women and two men, deliberating for about three hours, found Black had failed to prove the posts suppressed his willingness to make such a complaint in the future.
Clarke has been an outspoken supporter of President Donald Trump and a vociferous critic of Black Lives Matter and other social movements. He has also been criticized publicly for several deaths in county jails in recent years and is the defendant in several lawsuits.