LOUISVILLE – Today the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky resolved a federal lawsuit on behalf of James Evans, the Muhlenberg County man previously arrested and charged with making threats online for posting song lyrics from the heavy metal band Exodus. In 2014, Evans posted on his Facebook page lyrics from a song written about the Virginia Tech school shooting. Because of the school-related content, local law enforcement officials launched an investigation. In doing so, law enforcement officials learned the post consisted of song lyrics and that Evans had, in the past, posted lyrics from other songs online. And they questioned Evans who fully cooperated with their investigation.
Nevertheless, a Muhlenberg County Police officer sought and obtained a warrant for Evans’ arrest. But the affidavit submitted for the warrant mentioned nothing about the investigation or the facts that were uncovered. The ACLU represented Evans in the criminal case which was ultimately dismissed, but not before Evans spent several days in custody for simply posting the lyrics online.
The ACLU of Kentucky then filed suit on Evans’s behalf against the officer who submitted the affidavit and against the County. Today’s resolution of the litigation results in a judgment against both defendants, and it includes a $60,000 payment to resolve Evans’s claims.
In commenting on today’s development, ACLU of Kentucky Legal Director William Sharp stated, “Mr. Evans believes this settlement is a fair resolution of his claims, and that it reflects the seriousness of what he suffered for being wrongfully arrested and detained for engaging in protected online speech.” Sharp added, “The ACLU of Kentucky hopes that today’s judgment and significant financial settlement will deter government officials in Kentucky from future violations of individuals’ online speech rights.”
ACLU of Kentucky Cooperating Attorney Brenda Popplewell and ACLU of Kentucky Legal Director William E. Sharp represented Mr. Evans.