Teen’s COVID speech lawsuit tied up in court

Empower Wisconsin | Oct. 16, 2020

By M.D. Kittle 

MADISON — The lawsuit of an Oxford, Wis. teen threatened with arrest for posting on Instagram that she had COVID-19 remains mired in delays six months after her parents took the sheriff’s department to court. 

Luke Berg, deputy counsel for the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL), tells Empower Wisconsin that  Amyiah Cohoon and her parents are still waiting for the U.S. District Court to rule. 

“The case was recently re-assigned to the newly appointed Judge (Brett) Ludwig, so hopefully we’ll get a decision sooner since he has less of a backlog,” Berg said. 

WILL is suing Marquette County Sheriff Joseph Konrath and Sergeant Cameron Klump, alleging they violated Amyiah Cohoon’s First Amendment rights. The Milwaukee-based public interest law firm is representing the girl and her parents, Rick and Angela Cohoon.

As Empower Wisconsin reported, on March 27 Klump threatened to cite or jail Amyiah or her parents if she did not remove the social network post indicating she was recovering from COVID-19, according to the lawsuit.

Amyiah, a sophomore at Westfield High School at the time, ended up in the hospital. She tested negative for COVID-19 in Madison, but doctors noted that the 16-year-old had “symptoms consistent with COVID-19” but had missed the testing window, according to the court documents.

Recovering at home, Amyiah posted to Instagram. The post included a photo of herself at the hospital with an oxygen mask on her face. 

“I am finally home after being hospitalized for a day and a half. I am still on breathing treatment but have beaten the coronavirus. Stay home and be safe,” Amyiah wrote, according to court documents. 

“Westfield School District officials then swung into action to tell district parents that Amyiah was not telling the truth about her COVID-19 experience and complained to the Marquette County Sheriff,” WILL stated in a previous press release. 

On March 27, Klump was dispatched to the Cohoons’ home to demand the Instagram post be removed or face arrest for disorderly conduct. 

“Sergeant Klump stated that he had direct orders from Sheriff Konrath to demand that Amyiah delete this post, and, if she did not, to cite Amyiah and/or her parents for disorderly conduct and to ‘start taking people to jail,’” the lawsuit alleges.

“The police report also states that Klump ‘advise[d] Richard [Cohoon] that if they were not willing to take the post down, that there would be the possibility of a County Ordinance Disorderly Conduct or being arrested for Disorderly Conduct,’” court documents claim. 

 

The family argued for their constitutional rights, but eventually took down the posts after the threat from law enforcement.

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