DICKSON COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN) — The man arrested for posting a fake image on social media showing him desecrating the grave of a fallen deputy is suing law enforcement for at least $1 million after he claims his First Amendment rights were violated.
The lawsuit filed Tuesday on behalf of Joshua Garton demands a jury trial and lists the District Attorney, the TBI director and agents, Dickson police and the city of Dickson as defendants.
Garton was arrested in late Jan. on a charge of harassment after a photograph circulated on social media that showed him urinating on the grave of Dickson County Sgt. Daniel Baker, who died in the line of duty in 2018.
TBI agents went to Sgt. Baker’s gravesite and determined the photo was not real and had been altered. The harassment charge against Garton was dropped the following month.
In the lawsuit, Garton alleges “the bogus charge” was filed as retaliation and that law enforcement involved “had actual knowledge — at the time that they arrested and charged him — that the photograph that Mr. Garton had posted on Facebook was fake;” however, Garton claims, at the direction of the District Attorney Ray Crouch, they arrested him anyway “for disrespecting law enforcement.”
They “humiliated Mr. Garton through reputationally damaging press releases and other media that prominently featured [his] mugshot and the fact of his arrest,” the lawsuit states.
Garton claims Crouch was “professionally obligated to comply with the Constitution,” but “failed to comply with these obligations by directing law enforcement to investigate, retaliate again, arrest and charge Mr. Garton because he had disrespected law enforcement.”
David Rausch, the director of the TBI, is listed as a defendant in the case, as well. The lawsuit states he “had an obligation to comply with the Constitution and enforce the law, rather than participate in a conspiracy to violate it.”
The lawsuit states that Garton is a “29-year-old disabled male who suffers from mental illness” and as a result of “unconstitutional and tortious misconduct,” he spent nearly two weeks in jail for a “non-existent crime and became homeless.”
Garton has asked for a trial with 12 jury members and that he be awarded “an amount not less than $1 million” in compensatory, consequential, incidental and punitive damages “to which he is entitled.”