Amyiah Cohoon Instagram photo of coronavirus symptoms leads to her being threatened with arrest by Wisconsin Marquette County Sheriff Joseph Konrath over social discord claim.
Define free speech?
A Wisconsin teen has launched a lawsuit after Florida authorities threatened her with arrest over claims she started a ‘panic’ after posting photos of her contracting coronavirus on social media during a spring break trip to the ‘sunny state’.
‘I am still on breathing treatment but have beaten the coronavirus. Stay home and be safe,’ the teen captioned the March 26 Instagram post.
The next day, Cameron Klump, a patrol sergeant with the sheriff’s office, visited Cohoon’s home and told her father that he had direct orders from Sheriff Joseph Konrath to demand that she delete the post or he would ‘start taking people to jail’ for disorderly conduct, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports.
‘Sheriff Konrath advised me he wished for me to respond to the residence and have the post removed from her social media,’ Klump wrote in his incident report, according to the lawsuit.
The case raises questions about First Amendment protections in the middle of a pandemic.
Konrath’s justified his office’s demand that the post be removed because there had been no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the county and raised the prospect of causing social discord.
Samuel Hall, attorney for Konrath and Wisconsin’s Marquette County Sheriff’s Department, told Fox News that his office acted ‘in good faith.’
Define good faith?
‘[Her messages] caused distress and panic within the school system and law enforcement acted at the request of school health officials in a good faith effort to avoid unfounded panic,’ Hall said.
Konrath’s justification was that there had been no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the county.
Under the threat of arrest, Cohoon complied and deleted the allegedly ‘illegal’ Instagram post.
Reports reason: ‘That evening the family would discover that a school administrator sent out an alert to families accusing Cohoon of making it up and assuring families that any information of infection was just a rumor. “Let me assure you there is NO truth to this,” the message read. “This was a foolish means to get attention and the source of the rumor has been addressed. This rumor had caught the attention of our Public Health Department and she was involved in putting a stop to this nonsense.”‘
Posting ‘offending’ photo now warrants arrest?
The sophomore became ill after she traveled to Disney World and Universal Studios with her Westfield Area High School band class on March 7, at the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States.
The teen came down with a fever and dry cough five days after returning home on March 15, the lawsuit says. Her mother, Angela Cohoon, took her to the emergency room at Divine Savior Hospital on March 22, when she started having difficulty breathing.
Doctors who evaluated Cohoon said her symptoms were typical of COVID-19, but said she didn’t fit the criteria for one of the scarce tests, the lawsuit says. She was sent home with an inhaler and doctors told her and her parents to self-quarantine.
But the teen’s condition worsened and she was taken by ambulance March 25 to UW Children’s Hospital in Madison where she was tested for the coronavirus, according to the lawsuit.
The test came back negative, but doctors said she still likely had COVID-19 and had missed the window for testing positive, the lawsuit claims.
Cohoon was sent home from the hospital on March 26 and later posted the ‘offending’ oxygen mask selfie.
Using argument of social discord to muzzle free speech:
The lawsuit, filed on behalf of Cohoon and her parents, Richard and Angela, seeks nominal damages and a declaration that the social media posts were protected free speech.
‘The First Amendment’s protection of speech, especially online speech, is as vital as ever during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. … This case is about preserving the right to share our experiences with each other during this difficult time,’ the lawsuit reads.
Cohoon’s lawsuit also demands Konrath issue both an apology and the promise that there would be no further threats of criminal charges against the family for Amyiah’s post. No forthcoming apology or repudiation of the threat of arrest has been made.
According to the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, the Wisconsin Supreme Court has held that disorderly conduct statutes in the state cannot be applied to speech protected by the First Amendment.
And then there were this responses on social media below. See what you think?
To the citizens of Marquette County, WI. We highly encourage you to NOT VOTE FOR Sheriff JOSEPH KONRATH because of his violations of civil rights First and Fourth Amendments against Amyiah Cohoon. This should be a signal that his actions will not be tolerated violating rights.
— Connected Marines (@ConnectedMarine) April 17, 2020