Tech by VICE

Guy Who Wrote 'Fuck the Fucking Cops' on Facebook Wins $35,000 From Cops

You can't be arrested for writing 'fuck tha police' on Facebook.

by Jason Koebler
Sep 23 2015, 10:34pm

Image: James Alby/Flickr

Thomas Smith, a man arrested for writing "Fuck the fucking cops" on a police department's Facebook page three years ago has just won a $35,000 lawsuit against the fucking cops, his lawyer announced Wednesday.

In July 2012, the Village of Arena in Wisconsin posted a note on its Facebook page announcing a slew of arrests. Smith then posted "Fuck ths fucking cops they ant shit but fucking racist basturds an fucking all of y'all who is racist," as well as "Fuck them nigers bitchs wat you got on us not a dam thing so fuck off dicks." He was arrested for disorderly conduct and unlawful use of a computer and telephone. He was originally convicted by a local jury, but that decision was overturned by the Wisconsin Court of Appeals, which ruled Smith's First Amendment rights were violated.

"A settlement in this man's case is a no brainer and he deserves every penny he got"

Smith and his attorney, Tom Aquino, sued the village for an unspecified amount. Wednesday, the village settled with him, according to Aquino.

"We have always believed that the defendant's liability was clear. Federal and state courts have routinely held that the right to free speech is not limited to polite speech alone," Aquino wrote in a blog post. "In our country, we are entitled to criticize our government with passion. The use of some four-letter words in the course of doing so is never a crime."

From afar, the case was something of a slam dunk, but arrests that violate the First Amendment are common, and appeals don't always happen, according to Lee Rowland, a senior staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union who specializes in First Amendment cases.

"Just because a case is black-and-white from Constitutional point of view doesn't mean the government isn't capable of violating that right," she told me. "We like to think Constitutional truths prevent Unconstitutional violations, and in a case like this, it's very difficult to believe anyone involved didn't know this prosecution was blatantly unconstitutional, but it still happened."

"A settlement in this man's case is a no brainer, and he deserves every penny he got," she added. "Not only does he have a full right to have vulgar and profane speech, but in fact police officers have a higher duty to accept profanity because their line of work often brings them into contact with people who are emotional or worked up. The fact that he wrote this on a Facebook page in no way diminishes that fact."

For evidence of her first point, read the transcript of his original trial, which could and perhaps should be used as a dystopian screenplay.