A lawsuit filed by a Muhlenberg County man who was jailed for eight days after posting song lyrics on his Facebook page has been settled.
Muhlenberg County and Michael A. Drake, a school resource officer for the Muhlenberg County Police Department, agreed to settle the lawsuit, which was filed by James E. Evans, who was charged with terroristic threatening after posting lyrics from the heavy metal song, “Class Dismissed: A Hate Primer” by the band Exodus on his Facebook page in August 2014.
Evans posted the lyrics, from a song about school shootings by the band Exodus, on his page on Aug. 24. Evans posted the song’s chorus: “Student bodies lying dead in the halls/A blood splattered treatise of hate/Class dismissed is my hypothesis/Gun fire ends the debate/All I ever wanted was a little affection/But no one ever gave it to me/My hate primer’s the result of my rejection/You’ll die for it, and I’ll die for thee.”
Court records say law enforcement became aware of the post that day, and Evans was interviewed by Central City police. Court documents say Central City officers didn’t charge Evans with a crime.
Drake filed an affidavit for probable cause against Evans on Aug. 25, writing that Evans committed terroristic threatening by “threatening to kill students and or staff at school.”
The complaint filed by Evans says Drake “did not provide any details about the alleged crime.” State law says to qualify as first-degree terroristic threatening, a threat must include a false statement that a person “has placed a weapon of mass destruction” on public property or school property. A person who places a simulated weapon of mass destruction can also be charged with first-degree terroristic threatening.
Evans was held in jail for eight days after his arrest before the criminal charge against him was dismissed. Evans filed suit, with the American Civil Liberties Union representing him, alleging Drake “knowingly and intentionally made a material misstatement of fact” when preparing the probable cause affidavit that led to Evans’ arrest.
The settlement agreement says the county and Drake agreed to pay Evans $60,001. Evans could not be reached last week for comment.
William Sharp, an ACLU attorney who represented Evans in the suit, said the settlement should send a message about how online speech is also protected by the First Amendment.
“I can’t speak for the defendants, and I don’t think they would concede they were in the wrong,” Sharp said. “But I think, at the end of the day, there was an enforceable judgement against them … that folks can draw from what they will.
“We think the financial settlement is substantial,” Sharp said. “… The ACLU of Kentucky are hopeful the message it sends to officials, that violation of speech rights online can be an expensive proposition.”
The attorney representing Muhlenberg County and Drake could not be reached Friday for comment.
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