DICKSON, Tenn. (WKRN) — Law enforcement breaking the law, that’s what a $1 million lawsuit stemming out of Dickson is claiming.
The lawsuit filed against the city of Dickson, law enforcement officials, the district attorney, the director of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, and TBI agents claims a violation of first amendment rights on behalf of Joshua Garton.
“The most important thing to understand about this case is that the only people that broke the law were members of law enforcement,” Garton’s attorney Daniel Horwitz told News 2.
Garton was arrested in January for posting a photograph on Facebook that shows individuals supposedly desecrating the grave of deceased police officer Sergeant Daniel Baker.
“It’s fair for them to be offended by it, is not acceptable for them to take official enforcement action such as making an arrest, or incarcerating or prosecuting for protected speech,” said Horwitz.
At the request of District Attorney Ray Crouch, the TBI investigated the case determining the photo was fake.
“Obviously it’s an offensive photograph, it is not a real photograph, but it’s offensive there is no doubt about that. What is more offensive than a picture is the fact that law enforcement would arrest, incarcerate, and prosecute someone for clearly protected speech,” stated Horwitz.
Garton was charged with harassment and jailed for nearly two weeks before a Dickson County judge dismissed the charge for lack of probable cause.
The lawsuit stating correspondence among the defendants obtained through a public records request confirms their knowledge of violating Garton’s first amendment rights.
“Most disturbingly, text messages between the defendants made clear that they knew arresting Mr. Gardener was illegal and that he had the right to post, but since they wanted him to experience what they called consequences, they arrested, incarcerated, and prosecuted him anyway. That is not acceptable, it is illegal, and they are now being sued because of that.”
The attorney is also calling on the defendants to resign.
We reached out to the defendants in the case. Dickson police said they can’t comment. The TBI responded, “It would be inappropriate for us to comment on any pending litigation.”