Updated 6:15 a.m. EDT, January 23, 2018
After deliberating for nearly three hours, a federal jury decided that former Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke‘s intimidating Facebook posts did not violate Dan Black‘s free speech rights, USA Today reported. Black testified that he feared possible retaliation from the ex-sheriff after filing a complaint about their encounter in 2017.
Friends and enemies of controversial former Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke are now awaiting the verdict in a cyber bullying case against Clarke. The one-day civil trial began on Monday morning, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.
“It’s been a massive strain on me, my family and friends,” testified Dan Black, who alleged in his lawsuit that Clarke targeted him with threatening messages on Facebook.
Clarke was not in the courtroom. The county is financially liable for any award in the case, so a Sheriff’s Office official sat at the defendant’s table. This puts taxpayers on the hook for Clarke’s misbehavior.
Black and Clarke were on the same flight to Milwaukee last year when Black asked the sheriff if he was David Clarke, according to the lawsuit. He nodded yes, and Black shook his head disparagingly and walked away. Clarke felt disrespected and asked six of his deputies to have a talk with Black after the plane landed.
After the encounter, Black posted on social media about the incident and filed a complaint against Clarke with county officials before filing a lawsuit. Clarke responded with messages posted on the Sheriff’s Office official Facebook page. One post read, “Cheer up, snowflake . . . if Sheriff Clarke were to really harass you, you wouldn’t be around to whine about it.”
In his opening statement, the defense attorney described the situation between Black and Clarke as “an unfriendly internet spat” in which Black did not seem terrified when he talked about the case during TV interviews. During the jury selection process, Black’s lawyer complained that the defense struck the only potential African-American juror. The belief is that a Black juror is more likely to vote against law enforcement. The jury of five women and two men are now deciding the case. They must determine if Clarke’s posts were intended as retaliation for Black’s complaint.