Milwaukee, WI – A federal jury determined that former Sheriff David Clarke did not violate a man’s civil rights with social media postings calling him a "snowflake" after they had a dispute at the airport.
But the man who confronted the sheriff on an airplane told the jury the incident so traumatized him that he wants therapy because of Clarke’s Facebook posts.
The incident occurred on Jan. 15, 2017 when then-Sheriff Clarke and Black were boarding an airplane, headed home to Milwaukee.
Black approached Clarke and asked him if he was the sheriff, and then shook his head.
He later said he shook his head because the sheriff was wearing Dallas Cowboys' clothing, but was from Wisconsin where the Green Bay Packers play.
Clarke said that Black tried to intimidate him by standing over him in a menacing manner while the former sheriff was seated.
After the encounter, Clarke texted ahead and had deputies question Black when he departed the plane.
The federal case revolved around Clarke’s social media posts about the incident.
“Sheriff Clarke regrets that he cannot attend this juvenile, leftist, anti-cop tantrum. He is pleased that he has their attention however. The Sheriff is in Washington to witness the swearing in of our next President Donald J. Trump as we embark on a mission to MakeAmericaGreatAgain!” he posted on Facebook on Jan. 19, 2017.
Underneath the message was a meme with a photo of Black that read: “Cheer up, snowflake … if Sheriff Clarke were to really harass you, you wouldn’t be around to whine about it.”
Black complained in court that if you Google his name, that meme showed up.
He also noted that the Facebook meme, which remained posted on the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office page, was posted on a government Facebook page.
Black told the jury he was terrorized by the posts and needed to go to therapy.
He told them "this whole thing has been ridiculous to me. It's been a nightmare. I wish it never happened."
Clarke’s attorney said that Black went on Twitter and made comments after the incident, and even retweeted the meme.
The jury trial comes after a 27-page order earlier this month when Judge Stadtmueller said that a jury should decide whether Clarke's reaction on Facebook was the kind of threat or intimidation that amounted to retaliation against Black.
The judge granted summary judgment to Clarke on the Fourth and one of the First Amendment claims, dismissed the 14th Amendment claim as "completely without merit," and dismissed the claim against the county and the six deputies, according to Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
"While Clarke's actions reflect poor judgment, they do not shock the conscience," to a degree to support the due process claim, Judge Stadtmueller found in his order.
Judge Stadtmueller also found that Black's 15-minute discussion with deputies after arrival at the airport was not a seizure, since the deputies used friendly language and weren't expecting to arrest or cite Black.
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