(1-12-20) Another 1st amendment court complaint was filed last week in the Southern US District Court in Dayton. The complaint comes from a ‘Jane Doe’ from Dayton against Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost and Mercer County Prosecuting Attorney Matthew Fox.
Some points of the complaint filed –
At issue in this lawsuit is the fundamental right to engage in political discourse, as secured by the First Amendment. The State of Ohio has placed this right at risk by adopting two statutes – Menacing by Stalking (Ohio Rev. Code § 2903.211) and Telecommunications Harassment (Ohio Rev. Code § 2917.21) – that sweep within their scope a substantial amount of constitutionally-protected expression. The recent prosecutions of outspoken critics of the Ohio criminal justice system under these statutes have placed individuals like Jane Doe, a Dayton resident, in reasonable fear that they too will be arrested and charged with a crime if they speak out against governmental abuse. As a result, Jane Doe and people like her have been chilled in their political expression and have silenced their speech.
Given the broad scope of Ohio’s Menacing by Stalking and Telecommunications Harassment statutes, and as set forth in this Complaint, Jane Doe seeks the protection of this Court, in the form of a declaration that the challenged statutes are unconstitutional and preliminary and permanent injunctive relief prohibiting their enforcement, so that she may engage in the full range of political expression to which the United States Constitution entitles her.
The complaint goes on….
Both the Menacing by Stalking and Telecommunications Harassment statutes have been recently employed by Mercer County Prosecutor Matthew Fox to prosecute individuals who speak out on matters of public concern online.
The complaint highlights two Mercer County related cases…. State of Ohio v. Jeff Resawehr and State of Ohio v. Charles Summers. Neither Rasawehr or Charles and Vicki Summers are residents of Mercer County, yet they were still charged by Prosecutor Fox in Mercer County based on their web-based criticisms of Fox and other government officials.
Doe, who resides in Dayton, fears prosecution under Ohio’s Menacing by Stalking and Telecommunications Harassment statutes, particularly in Mercer County. Following the indictment of Charles Summers, Doe felt so afraid of being charged herself that she ceased posting critical comments about local government online.
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