The Adams County Sheriff's Office is settling a lawsuit with an Iowa man who was charged with misdemeanor harassment after posting a criticism of a sheriff's deputy on his Facebook page.
The department will pay Jon Goldsmith $10,000 in damages, according to a news release from the ACLU of Iowa.
“Jon's case is one of those ‘brushfire cases’ because like a brushfire, they pop up again and again and need constant addressing, and if they are left unchecked they’d have a devastating effect," attorney Glen Downey, who represented Goldsmith for the ACLU, said in a statement. "Such [First Amendment] violations unfortunately routinely happen. If these unconstitutional violations are left unchecked, the would profoundly affect the ability of all citizens to believe in the fairness and decency of their own democracy.”
Goldsmith sought medical treatment for high blood pressure related to stress as a result of being charged, according to the news release.
As part of the settlement, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa, where the lawsuit was filed, issued a permanent injunction that orders the sheriff’s office to stop criminally charging people who criticize its law enforcement officers. The sheriff's office also must provide its deputies with training on free speech rights and must adopt a social media policy, the ACLU said.
Goldsmith said he's glad that a settlement has been reached, according to the news release.
"I'm especially glad the department will get free speech training," he said. "I hope it stops them from doing this to other people. It's ridiculous that I had to get a lawyer to defend my right to free speech. People need to be able to speak up when an officer is doing wrong. The sheriff's office shouldn't be able to shut them down just for doing that."
In his July 2018 Facebook post, Goldsmith criticized what he thought was a deputy's abusive behavior at a festival. Goldsmith's post included curse words but didn't threaten anyone or encourage illegal activity, according to the ACLU.