Settlement Obtained for ACLU Client
June 18, 2014
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
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CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO—Police Officer Jerry Bledsoe sent a written apology to Second Amendment advocate Jordan Klaffer, and agreed to pay damages, court costs and attorneys’ fees. The Village of Kelso, where Bledsoe works, also assured Klaffer in writing that they will instruct police officers to not seek court orders to censor individuals who are critical of police officers’ actions. In response, today Klaffer and the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri asked the United States District Court to dismiss the First Amendment lawsuit filed in February on Klaffer’s behalf.
Klaffer is a gun rights advocate who frequently fires his weapons at objects on private property. On May 1, 2013, Jerry Bledsoe, a police officer, confronted Klaffer while responding to a noise complaint. Klaffer videotaped the interaction, where Bledsoe issued an ultimatum to Klaffer to surrender his guns or be arrested. Klaffer refused to give up his guns and was arrested for disturbing the peace.
To express his opinion that Officer Bledsoe was using his position to harass him for exercising his Second Amendment rights, Klaffer posted recordings of the encounter on social media and Officer Bledsoe retaliated by obtaining a court order that prevented Mr. Klaffer from posting videos, pictures, and text data criticizing Officer Bledsoe on the Internet.
"Government officials cannot abuse their power by ordering the censorship of material that is critical of their actions," explains Tony Rothert, legal director of the ACLU of Missouri. "Censorship of criticism of police officers is an affront to the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech."
"This is an important win for First Amendment freedoms," says Jeffrey A. Mittman, the ACLU of Missouri’s executive director. "It is a reminder for all police departments that citizens have a right to record public interactions with police officers and share those recordings freely."
A copy of the complaint, and a link to Mr. Klaffer’s YouTube video, are available on the ACLU of Missouri’s website.
The ACLU of Missouri is a non-partisan, not-for-profit organization dedicated to defending and expanding the constitutional rights and civil liberties of all Missourians guaranteed by the U.S. and Missouri Constitutions, and is an affiliate of the national ACLU.