NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A Tennessee man arrested over a social media post sued law enforcement officers Tuesday, claiming they violated his First Amendment rights, the Tennessean reported.
Joshua Andrew Garton was arrested in January after posting a photograph that depicted two people urinating on a gravestone with a photo of a Dickson County sheriff’s officer who was fatally shot in 2018.
The post was captioned, “Just showing my respect to deputy Daniel Baker from the #dicksoncountypolicedepartment.”
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation was called in at the request of District Attorney Ray Crouch. Investigators determined the photo was taken from an album cover with a copy of Baker’s official work portrait “crudely” edited onto the grave, court documents show.
Nonetheless, Garton was charged with harassment and jailed for nearly two weeks on a $76,000 bond until a Dickson County judge dismissed his charges Feb. 4.
Documents released under a public records request filed by Garton’s attorney, Daniel Horwitz, show investigators believed the post could be perceived as threatening or intimidating to Baker’s surviving relatives — even though he did not send it to them.
“The trolls will do what trolls do. It appears they and the lawyers forget that there are surviving family members who have rights as well,” TBI Director David Rausch said in a text conversation included in the records.
The lawsuit filed in federal court in Nashville on Tuesday argues Garton was the victim of “false arrest and malicious prosecution” with authorities “incarcerating him for weeks and broadcasting his mugshot and the fact of his arrest to news media and the public in retaliation for disrespecting police.”
Garton is suing Crouch, Rausch, other TBI officials, a Dickson police officer, and the city of Dickson over his treatment. Dickson city attorney Jerry Smith said on Wednesday he had not yet seen the lawsuit. The TBI and Crouch’s office declined to comment.